Carrie Rengers

Former state lawmaker plans to open downtown grocery

Former state Rep. Phil Hermanson says he plans to open five businesses, including a downtown grocery store, in the Century Plaza building at 111 W. Douglas.
Former state Rep. Phil Hermanson says he plans to open five businesses, including a downtown grocery store, in the Century Plaza building at 111 W. Douglas. The Wichita Eagle

If everything comes together in time, former state Rep. Phil Hermanson says, he’ll open a downtown grocery store in time for the Wichita River Festival.

“It’s five businesses in one,” he says of what he has planned.

Hermanson hasn’t signed a lease yet nor finished securing financing, but he says he’s close on both.

“We’re right there,” he says. “We’ve got pretty much all of our ducks in a row.”

He plans a grocery store called Wichita Market, a convenience store called the Downtown Express, a coffee bar and specialty food business called Michelle’s Coffee Bar & Specialty Foods, a catering business called ICT Catering and a venue that hasn’t been named yet.

The first four businesses will all be together in 7,000 square feet on the first floor of Century Plaza at 111 W. Douglas.

The venue will be in 6,000 square feet on the second floor.

“We’ve done all the work,” Hermanson says.

He said he secured all the necessary financing through individuals in Kansas City, but then someone advised him to find local investors instead.

“I thought it would be a piece of cake,” Hermanson says. He says he thought that because it was easy to find investors in Kansas City. He says everything is coming together now and will be ready to go.

“We have a 60-day turnkey operation,” he says. “I’ve fully vetted this thing.”

Hermanson says the interior of the store and restaurant will “be very trendy – a little abstract.”

There will be a clean look with lots of wood and stainless steel and some nostalgic Wichita touches, he says.

“It’s going to be totally awesome.”

The restaurant initially will serve breakfast and lunch.

What’s in the grocery will depend on customers, Hermanson says.

“We’re going to start with kind of a base package of goods.”

He’ll take online and phone orders.

“And then we’re going to be good listeners.”

Eventually, Hermanson says, “We’re going to have a pretty good idea of what people want.”

He says he’s done as much as he can without getting in the space to do renovations, which he says won’t require a lot of major construction.

Hermanson says one of the biggest things he brings to the project is his ability to promote it.

“I always fought hard to win my elections. I’m a pretty good promoter.”

Most recently, he’s had a company that helps others with their political campaigns.

His store’s tagline will be “We provide the excitement in shopping for you.”

Hermanson says the store’s grand opening will be particularly exciting.

“We’re going to make it a really big hit,” he says.

“We want this to be an attraction for downtown. A shopping attraction is what we’re really aiming for.”

Hermanson says he wants the store “to be a must-see.”

“Right where we’re located used to be the absolute exciting part of Wichita,” he says. “With us anchoring down with that grocery store, I think it can bring a lot of life.”

Hermanson says he has no doubt the project will come together.

“I don’t quit.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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