Carrie Rengers

Candle Club plans expansion, upgrades

Candle Club general manager Judah Craig, right, and executive chef Jeremiah Harvey plan changes this fall and in the coming year for the longtime club.
Candle Club general manager Judah Craig, right, and executive chef Jeremiah Harvey plan changes this fall and in the coming year for the longtime club. The Wichita Eagle

With a place as one-of-a-kind as the Candle Club, with its vintage, Rat Pack feel, is it possible to replicate that in another space?

The owners are going to try.

It’s likely going to take about a year, but the Candle Club is working on a deal with the new owners of Prairie Village at 13th and Woodlawn to expand the 7,500-square-foot private club to the east with an approximately 4,000-square-foot private banquet facility for 250.

“It’s going to be tough to do it spot on,” says general manager Judah Craig. “I don’t think we could ever completely copycat what we have here.”

For instance, there are what he calls the club’s signature wheels and clouds – circular 1950s-era architectural features that drop from the ceiling.

“I don’t know if you can buy clouds like that anymore,” Craig says. “They were probably a little more common 60 years ago than they are today.”

He thinks there are ways to subconsciously capture the feel of the club, though.

“That’s why I don’t want to rush anything.”

Craig says the event space, which will have its own bar along with a small kitchen, could be for parties, weddings and catering.

“We’re getting more and more demand for that.”

He says when there are private events now, they usually happen in a room generally reserved for cigar smokers.

“We’re excited to turn that more into a home for cigar smokers,” Craig says.

He also wants it to be a space for watching or playing games.

“A lot of our members have really wanted that, but it’s been hard for us to consistently provide it.”

Owners Steve Ruud, Gary Austerman, Nate Robertson, Brian Thornton and Craig purchased the Candle Club two years ago and have since repainted, recarpeted, remodeled the bathrooms and added art.

Craig says they also plan to remodel the bar area.

“We’d like to really open it up.”

He and executive chef Jeremiah Harvey also plan changes to the menu, including adding a porterhouse steak and a bone-in filet.

“We’re really trying to take it up a notch on the next menu,” Craig says. “We are a true steakhouse here.”

He says it’s a balance adding dishes and keeping club favorites, such as the lobster bisque.

“I think we’d have an uprising,” Craig says of trying to take that off the menu.

He says one of the first things the new owners did was reinstate a daily salad bar.

“My first day – all day – all I heard was how nuts (the previous owners) were for taking it out.”

Harvey says he’s making some changes to the salad bar, including adding more fresh ingredients, but leaving standards such as pickled beets and pea salad.

“I’ve been threatened to death,” he says of not touching the pea salad.

“We’re doing a good job of balancing out what our longstanding members like … and what our new members like,” Craig says. “ We knew we needed to grow our membership outside of just the current demographic, but we didn’t want to lose anything at all because that’s what made this club this club.”

He says presentation will change along with the menu in the next couple of months.

Members are “wanting something a little bit more, so we’re going to give it to them and just make beautiful plates,” Harvey says.

“This club was the most popular place almost in the city in the ’70s – one of – and we’re really trying to get it back there,” Craig says. “We’re very nostalgic to a lot of people.”

When the expansion happens, Harvey says that “it’s going to be one of the classiest things Wichita’s seen for a while.”

“I definitely think we’re turning a new leaf here at the Candle for generations to come.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers