Lots of businesses will be affected by the next phase of East Kellogg widening, and at least one of them may not survive.
“We’re pretty much losing our business,” says LoRisa Fouch, who owns American Bikes 4 You with her husband, Larry.
The two opened their business in Andover in early 2006 to sell preowned Harley-Davidsons. Larry Fouch also sells classic cars and trucks as more of a hobby.
In March 2012, they purchased the former Suburban Equipment building at 12345 E. Kellogg.
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“Larry and I pretty much gutted the building and fully restored it to what we needed to be,” Fouch says. “We worked pretty much around the clock from March until August and then moved over here in August.”
Moving into the city of Wichita “has been a big help,” she says, and the business is doing “really well.”
“You can see us from the turnpike.”
The business is also just off of K-96, and it’s in an area where all the businesses will have to go to allow widening and the addition of new turnpike ramps.
“We heard rumors about it off and on throughout the year,” Fouch says.
She says she and her husband figured it was something that was 10 to 15 years away, and it was their understanding they’d only lose some property and not their building.
“And that was no big deal,” she says.
Fouch says she and her husband figured they’d be retired by then, and he could keep the building for his classic vehicle hobby.
“Then all of a sudden everything changed, and they still didn’t come out and tell us,” Fouch says.
Finally, she says, they heard something definitive in late October.
First, a representative with the Kansas Turnpike Authority came, and then KTA came back with representatives of the city and the Kansas Department of Transportation.
“It was six of them against the two of us, and that’s pretty much the way it felt,” Fouch says. “They told us we would have an offer before the end of the year.”
She says that didn’t happen. Larry Fouch says it’s hard to make another deal without having that money.
“It’s just sort of turned into a big mess,” he says.
Turnpike spokeswoman Rachel Bell says KTA became involved in the project a few months ago.
“This project has really come together very quickly,” she says.
“We’re trying to go as quick as we can … so that they can make decisions,” Bell says of property owners. “We understand that that’s important.”
She says meetings with affected property owners have begun, and they will include purchase offers.
The project is from Webb Road east to K-96. It’s two different projects, but Bell says that “for the driver, it’s going to look like one project, really.”
KTA is managing the project from Greenwich to K-96.
Engineer and project manager Rex Fleming says the Fouches are going to have an offer this week.
Fleming says he’s dealing with two different reactions from property owners. That includes people such as the Fouches, who don’t want to move, and others who thought they were going to have to move a long time ago.
“They want me to just go ahead and do it this time instead of keeping them in limbo,” he says.
Fleming says he understands why some business owners don’t want to move, but he says, “It is a project that is a benefit to the public.”
He says he tries to explain that and also let people know that he’s giving them more time to move than the law requires.
Still, LoRisa Fouch says it’s not enough.
“We’ve been pulling our hair out trying to find someplace,” she says.
The Fouches say it’s difficult to find land to buy that’s the right size for their business and then get permits in time to open by the end of the year when they have to be gone from their current property.
“It doesn’t give us enough time,” LoRisa Fouch says.
American Bikes 4 You is in an 8,500-square-foot building on just over an acre.
“We were under the assumption this would be our building, and we would never move again,” LoRisa Fouch says.
She says they need a place with commercial zoning that allows for a dealer’s license.
“We would like to be able to own whatever building we’re in,” she says.
Renting “gets into your profit quite a bit,” Larry Fouch says.
They also want to stay on the east side, and they don’t want a building that’s too much bigger or smaller than what they have now. The combination is proving hard to find, and it’s leaving the Fouches frustrated.
LoRisa Fouch says they’d like to keep the business going, but they’re not sure what will happen.
“How many times can you move a business before your business is no longer a business?”