Small Business

Shelden Architecture draws clients looking for ‘a fresh approach’

Editor's note: This is one in a series of profiles of businesses nominated for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Small Business Award.

Shelden Architecture specializes in a type of client rather than a kind of building.

“We seem to be a good fit for folks who are interested in something different and a fresh approach to things,” said architect Stan Shelden, who started the firm in 2002. “If they’re looking for a cookie-cutter approach, they probably don’t need us.”

For instance, client Heartland Credit Union “wanted to make a good splash” with its location at 37th and Maize, Shelden said. The eye-catching end product included a vaulted lobby letting in plenty of natural light, fronted by a large two-sided LED sign broadcasting messages to motorists passing by on both streets.

Other well-known Wichita area buildings and spaces designed by Shelden Architecture include the former Alefs Harley-Davidson (now Twister City Harley-Davidson) on I-35 with its multiple arches and the newly opened Reverie Roasters and Founders Bakery on Douglas, a renovation of existing space with eclectic, contemporary and retro elements.

Shelden grew up in Wichita and traces his interest in architecture to “Legos, I guess. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved building stuff.” He studied at Kansas State University and then spent eight years working in Chicago before returning home.

Starting as a one-man operation, his firm now employs 12 people. It’s one of five nominees for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Small Business Award in “tier one,” businesses employing 25 people or less.

“It’s been an up-and-down road somewhat,” Shelden said. “When the recession hit, 2009 to 2012 were tough years for a lot of folks.” The firm survived in part by doing work connected with the Wichita school bond issue.

Shelden notes that his firm has done a lot of work for banks — Corner Bank, Equity Bank, Kanza Bank and Halstead Bank are clients — as well as institutions of higher learning. The firm has designed buildings for healthcare facilities, retailers, colleges, houses of worship and more.

Shelden offers commercial and residential design, interior design, landscaping, graphic design such as signs and logos, and architectural renderings ranging from hand sketches to elaborate 3D models.

If there’s another thing that characterizes his firm’s work, Shelden said, it’s an emphasis on communication with clients.

“We really try to engage the client in a way that they feel it continues to be their project,” he said. “We’re not telling them what to do. We’re trying to listen to what they have to say.”

In pursuing a project for K-State’s animal sciences department in Manhattan, for instance, Shelden said he told the school he knew little about horses other than “they eat and they poop.” But his firm won the contract over competitors with more experience in that niche. “Guess what? K-State’s an expert (on animals),” Shelden said. “They don’t need another expert. They need a partner.”

“If it’s genuine and you’re really doing that, I think people feel engaged and part of the process,” he added.

The firm has embraced the trend for adaptive reuse of buildings — for instance, helping turn the old Broadway Autopark parking garage into 44 apartments, with commercial space on the ground floor.

Another prominent project — designed but not yet built — is Wave, an indoor-outdoor concert and event venue planned for the corner of 2nd and St. Francis streets. It’ll hold 3,200 people outdoors and 530 inside, include a beer garden and food truck area, and be like nothing else in Wichita, its promoters have promised.

It’s that last part that drives Shelden.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for Wichita — I don’t say that lightly,” he said. Working on projects like Wave “is the way that we love people. We love people through what we do.”

SHELDEN ARCHITECTURE

Address: 800 E. 1st , Suite 140

Phone: 316-263-4300

Owner: Stan Shelden

Website: sheldenarchitecture.com

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