Carrie Rengers

Plant thief bedevils Wichita Tire & Alignment

Wichita Tire & Alignment owner Chris Kratzer believes the same woman took half of his property’s plants this year and last year.
Wichita Tire & Alignment owner Chris Kratzer believes the same woman took half of his property’s plants this year and last year. Courtesy of Chris Kratzer

When Chris Kratzer opened Wichita Tire & Alignment at 4460 S. Seneca a year and a half ago, he says he wanted to set his business apart.

One way he thought to do that is with landscaping. He says he knows that tire shops aren’t perhaps known for their beauty.

“Right. Exactly.”

Kratzer believes, though, that landscaping and a generally tidy appearance can lend themselves to the right perception.

“If it’s clean and neat and tidy, then they’re going to do good work,” he says is the perception people have of the business. “That’s my outlook.”

He adds: “It’s more inviting to women as well.”

That’s the reason he says he makes sure to have a clean bathroom.

A woman, though, has been bedeviling his beautification efforts.

Around this time last year, Kratzer says, a woman came to his shop in the middle of the night and took about half of the new plants he’d planted.

Though he says video from his security cameras showed the woman, Kratzer couldn’t see her vehicle’s license plate. He says he called police, but nothing happened beyond a case filing.

At about 3:30 a.m. on May 7, he says, it happened again.

Once again, Kratzer says his cameras caught a woman “not in any hurry and just pulling (plants) out of the ground like she’s just shopping.”

“I didn’t know if it was, like, an epidemic or if it was just me.”

Kratzer says he hasn’t heard of it happening to other businesses, including the nursery he shops at, which has a number of plants planted by the street.

“I mean, they’re expensive,” Kratzer says.

He says he didn’t bother to make a police report this year since nothing happened last year.

There was no question he’d replace the plants, though.

“Absolutely,” he says. “I didn’t want her to think that she had gotten to me.”

Kratzer says he believes it’s the same woman. Each year, he says, she took about half of what he planted.

When he pulled up to the shop, “You could just see the holes where they were,” Kratzer says. “I was shocked.”

He says he couldn’t believe it happened again.

“I didn’t want to believe that,” Kratzer says. “It just made me sick for a couple of days.”

It was the day before Mother’s Day, and Kratzer wonders whether the woman perhaps needed a present.

He says he wishes she simply would have asked for some plants.

“I would have given her a few.”

Unlike last year, Kratzer says, this year he hired a landscaper to help plant part of his property.

Instead of merely digging holes and planting the plants, Kratzer says, he prepared the ground, put down a weed barrier and then cedar mulch.

“She just yanked them right through it.”

Kratzer says he’s considered some extra lighting, but he’s not sure what else to do.

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers