Business Q & A

A conversation with Schane Gross

Never one to sit still, Anchor owner Schane Gross opened a butcher shop in 2014 and – in the middle of that – decided that a second restaurant sounded like a lot of fun.
Never one to sit still, Anchor owner Schane Gross opened a butcher shop in 2014 and – in the middle of that – decided that a second restaurant sounded like a lot of fun. The Wichita Eagle

Schane Gross is simultaneously a reporter’s dream and a bit of a nightmare.

The owner of the Anchor, Douglas Avenue Chop Shop and Fork & Fennel is a blunt talker with tales to tell, but she speaks so lightning fast that sometimes it’s tough to tell what she’s just said. It’s also difficult to get a complete, printable sentence out of her since her talk would make even the proverbial sailor blush.

“Cussing is my biggest vice,” said the mother of three, adding that even her kids are taken aback on occasion.

Gross said her life as a military brat, in and out of various schools, has shaped who she is.

“I guess I tend to like an organic system where things change,” she said. “It makes it a little bit crazy for people who do work for me. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Such as opening a butcher shop and then, in the middle of that, deciding to open a second restaurant. That’s what Gross did in 2014.

Gross is a walking dichotomy. There’s the businesswoman who talks profit margins, promotes heritage meat and gives entrepreneurial advice to students during a Q&A at Wichita State University.

There’s also the tattooed drinker who’s easily convinced to have late-night whiskeys with customers before riding her Yuba cargo bike home after midnight.

Gross has a tattoo on her shin of a pinup girl holding a tray full of vices – drugs, drinks, guns, money, cards – with the words “name your poison.”

“Like, ‘What can I get you?’” Gross said. “I’ve always been hustling to provide what people want to buy.”

She said she needs to get the tattoo updated, though.

“Now I have to add a piece of (pork) to that tray.”

Gross knows she’s not the typical business owner – or even restaurateur.

“I just think people think I’m a little rough on the edges,” she said. “Now that I’m 40, it’s probably losing its charm.”

Gross said she knows what people are probably thinking now.

“Watch out for that bitch.”

Growing up, what did you think you might like to do for a living?

I never saw myself having kids, that’s for sure. … I saw myself being more of a world traveler, like constantly going, going, going. Whatever that career might have been doing that.

What was your first job?

I’ve been working since I was like 14, 15 years old. … I worked at Lil’ Mexico, of all places. After that, I decided I didn’t like working in restaurants. I hated it. … There’s always someone not showing up or not giving their all. It’s kind of like an underpaid industry. … It’s a hard life working for a restaurant. … It makes me wonder why people do it. I know why people do it, but how? Is the system broke where people have to work two full-time jobs in the same industry? … To me, there’s something wrong with that picture. … There’s got to be an answer to all that, and I don’t know quite what that answer is. Even the bank – the bank is on my … about my cost margins. It’s funny, my labor cost is high, yet my staff is underpaid.

Then you worked at a few auto parts stores. What other jobs did you have along the way?

I started working in a tattoo shop before I even graduated from high school. … Other than piercing, tattoos and stripping, the only other experience I have is working in a restaurant.

Um, wait. Stripping?

Not going to talk about it. It catches people off guard. … I was young. … I did body piercing for almost 17 years. Seven of those years I also tattooed.

So you had your own place, Holier Than Thou, which was briefly in Clifton Square, right?

It was a play on words because of body piercing, but it was also basically a statement on how I was being treated.

You had trouble finding a landlord to rent to you?

It was because of people’s whole attitude toward piercing and tattooing. … I would take my baby in a carrier and do piercings.

Do you still have a lot of customers from those days?

I see them every day. … Except now … they’re buying meat and beer. I’m not putting needles in their nipples.

You moved the piercing business to the 1100 block of East Douglas, opened Hell Bomb Tattoo and eventually bought where you had been renting and the space around it. Why?

I knew that I had options. Well, rent’s going to go up (or) I was going to get kicked out … or I’m going to buy the building.

That’s when you opened the first side of the Anchor?

The bank didn’t give me enough money to put a kitchen in it. The real money is in food and beer. It’s not just beer. It’s not just food.

Then you stopped doing piercings?

I was so burned out. … One day I was just done. No warning.

And eventually you sold Hell Bomb to your ex-husband?

He’s the only one I’ll rent to. … I don’t like being a landlord.

The Anchor eventually added food and doubled in size, but service has been an issue. Why?

The staff got tired of hearing about the stigma that the Anchor has crappy service. … It’s just constant coaching. It’s never something you can let your guard down on.

Why the butcher shop?

So I can control my proteins. This is where my heart is, and it benefits the Anchor. … The butcher shop would have taken off a lot better had I not taken off to open another restaurant.

What were you thinking?

Fork & Fennel is the answer to we want to have fun with our menus. The Fork & Fennel is our little playground for chef food. … Beef tartare. … Scallops and pork belly just done a specific way. … Artisanal cheese on your salads instead of whatever blue cheese crumbles come in a big … container.

How is doing so much even fun?

Well, it’s fun no matter what. It’s fun because it’s challenging, and I have a really good staff. … They’re not afraid to let me know if they’re annoyed by me. Sometimes I can be a nuisance. I think sometimes there are people who protect the Anchor from me.

Anything keep you up at night?

Money. … I feel like sometimes the bank is my boss or my CPA is my boss. … Ideas. That’s mostly what keeps me up. … I just seem to have so many of them, and I have to filter through them. Like last night, I wrote over 24 sausage recipes. … What I really need to do is focus on what’s already going on.

Any regrets?

Personal regrets, yes. … There’s constant regrets. … I could be more productive with my time. … Not spending as much time (as I should) with my children, I’d say.

Yet you’re also proud of how you’re raising them?

My kids are awesome. They’re very well-rounded. Social. … I don’t shelter them. They’re well equipped. I never worry about how my kids are going to react to a situation.

What’s something few people know about you?

Very few people know my name … is Shirley Jane. … Basically that’s how I came up with Schane. I was, like, 16, 17 years old when I came up with that.

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.