If the closing goes as planned, Ken Elliott will be the new owner of the Grand Chapel at 828 N. Broadway by the end of the day Friday.
“I’m hoping we can bring the chapel back to life,” says Elliott, who also owns a couple of inns.
“We’re still wanting to be a wedding chapel … but we’re kind of doing a few different things.”
That includes a big focus on murder mystery dinner theater, the first one of which will be built around Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
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“It’s very interactive,” Elliott says.
The theater will be open every weekend in December with dancing immediately following dinner and the show.
“It should be a lot of fun.”
Elliott has already been at the chapel for a few months in preparation of taking it over from Dennis Wilkie.
The former First Church of Christ, Scientist, building turned 100 this year, and Elliott says there were a number of issues that needed addressing.
“We spent a boatload of money more than doubling the electrical input into the building.”
Elliott says he’s also been cleaning and painting.
“We’ve put in a few new decorations.”
He says he has some ideas for how to help the business succeed with a new mix of services.
In addition to the theater, Elliott plans events such as Saturday matinees for kids.
“We’re really trying to promote quality family style entertainment here.”
Elliott, who says the chapel’s calendar was blank when he arrived, says he’s getting calls from people who want a smaller wedding venue than the chapel’s large main room for weddings.
“We’ve created a chapelette,” he says.
In fact, he’s calling it Le Chapelette.
The room, which is on one side of the first floor reception foyer, is “kind of its own contained chapel … for people that don’t want to do a huge production.”
Elliott says it will hold about 20 people in addition to a wedding party.
“We’ve got a complete wedding package for $395,” he says.
That includes an officiant, music, decorations, the room and chairs, finger sandwiches and a cake.
“For $395, it’s a really good deal.”
Elliott had been a business consultant at Wichita State University for a decade before he left in 2010 to be “you know, my own boss.”
“At first, I was a little bit scared,” he says.
He bought the Serenity Bed and Breakfast Inn a couple of blocks from the Grand Chapel and the Iron Gate Inn in Winfield.
Elliott says he he likes to use money he generates from those businesses for historic preservation, and he’s set up the Grand Chapel as a nonprofit to do the same.
He says his first goal is to help raise money for the Sternberg House at 10th and Waco.
“That property is such a cool property,” Elliott says. “We’ve lost a lot of these grand, beautiful mansions that represented … Wichita in its heyday.”
Elliott says he’s hoping more events at the Grand Chapel might lead to more visitors to the Serenity Bed and Breakfast Inn.
“That was kind of my plan.”
Elliott says he started from scratch with the inns, so that gives him confidence with the chapel.
He says it’s still risky, though, especially since he’s drawn from his savings and retirement account to do it.
“So it’s a gamble.”