Jeff Ablah’s career has come full circle this fall.
Ablah started in the commercial real estate business with his father, the late George Ablah, 35 years ago.
The elder Ablah had his son handle leasing at two of his buildings, one of which — the Eastridge center at the northeast corner of Lincoln and Woodlawn — Jeff Ablah recently purchased from another owner.
“It kind of meant something since it was my dad’s at one point,” he says.
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“That’s where I started.”
The 37,000-square-foot building was more than half vacant, but Ablah has now found a tenant for more than 14,000 square feet.
The Mennonite Central Committee, or MCC, is going to put one of its thrift stores in the space.
“I’m very excited,” Ablah says. “It helps the center. It helps the center’s personality.”
MCC is a fellowship of Anabaptist churches that work to provide basic human needs, peace and justice internationally.
The closest MCC thrift store to Wichita is the Et Cetera Shop in Newton.
The new store, which will open no later than early March, will be called the Thrift on Woodlawn.
MCC has seven thrift stores in the region, more than 40 nationally and more than 100 including ones in Canada.
“We hadn’t had a new thrift shop in a number of years in our region,” says Michelle Armster, MCC Central States executive director.
The store will have clothing, toys, books, bikes, decor, furniture and other household items like a typical thrift.
MCC also is partnering with Working Men of Christ, which provides homes for what the group calls “returning citizens,” or people released from prison.
The thrift store is one way MCC raises money, but Armster says it’s more than that.
“Our hope is that it is a community-based kind of facility,” she says.
That includes educational classes on topics such as resume writing and interview skills for the former prisoners and anyone else who wants to take them.
There also will be classes on repurposing items, such as furniture and clothing.
Typically, about 90 percent of a store’s profits go to MCC nationally, but Armster says she hopes to change that to 60 percent so 40 percent of the money stays locally.
“I wanted a model that would leave more in the community,” she says.
The Lincoln and Woodlawn space is undergoing extensive remodeling. Armster says she hopes to have a soft opening before the official March opening.
MCC is looking to open stores in Kansas City and Denver as well.
“We’re focusing on our urban . . . centers,” Armster says.
That means Thrift on Woodlawn likely will be the only one in Wichita, she says.
“Unless it blows up, and we have to open another one. That would be fabulous.”