Carrie Rengers

Woodard Mercantile did not influence Atwoods’ decision not to open in Maize

There are a few lingering questions over the failed Maize Atwoods deal.
There are a few lingering questions over the failed Maize Atwoods deal. File photo

Even though the Maize Atwoods deal is dead, there are some lingering questions for some and a few bad feelings, at least for one person.

As Have You Heard? reported earlier this week, the Oklahoma-based ranch and home store didn’t want to conform to certain design standards for the store at 4551 N. Maize Road, so property co-owner Greg Dotson did not go through with rezoning.

Dotson says he’s frustrated with the city in general and city administrator Richard LaMunyon in particular.

“Every time I went up there, he assured me the city of Maize wanted Atwoods and everything was going to go really smoothly,” Dotson says. “He told me that two or three times.”

There were issues such as some metal Atwoods wanted to use on the outside of its building and that it wanted to have some of its products displayed along Maize Road, neither of which the city allows.

“They made all these rules back in 2006 that I didn’t even know existed,” Dotson says.

LaMunyon says they’re “just our standard design standards.”

“Any new business would be required to adhere to the same standards that (were) placed on the Atwoods project,” he says.

LaMunyon says the standards are similar to those of other cities, including Wichita.

“They’re not anything above and beyond.”

He says he and the city worked with Atwoods to help the chain come.

“We encouraged them to come.”

Which leads to one of the lingering questions some people had over the deal. Is there a chance local Atwoods competitor Woodard Mercantile had anything to do with the larger store not coming?

“We certainly didn’t get any pressure at all from the Mercantile or any of the other businesses for that matter up and down Maize Road,” LaMunyon says.

He says there was even support from some people who would have been neighbors of Atwoods.

“We actually thought . . . Atwoods was good for the community and Woodard Mercantile,” says Leslye Woodard, who owns the Mercantile with her husband, Gerald.

She says they thought the store would bring in more traffic to the area.

“Our slice may be smaller, but the pie will be bigger.”

She says their plan was to “just beat ’em in customer service.”

The Mercantile opened in 1991 and has been at 4160 N. Maize Road since 1998, which preceded the design standards that are in place now.

“They’ve been here long enough that they’re grandfathered in,” LaMunyon says.

However, when the Mercantile is one day forced to move for a new bypass, if it stays in Maize, it will have to meet the design standards.

LaMunyon says the standards are about compatibility with surrounding areas, including homes, and in the end it was Atwoods’ choice to not adhere to them and build a store.

“It’s certainly not because Maize didn’t want them here.”

Dotson says he’d like a commercial user to buy the property and then rezone it so he doesn’t have to try again.

“Cause it’s a real pain.”

FILE - Oklahoma-based Atwoods had plans to open a store in Maize, with construction possibly starting in the spring. Its live chicks area is always popular for shoppers to visit. Carrie Rengers/ The Wichita Eagle/Feb. 15, 2018

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com.
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