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.
Schane Gross can be her own toughest critic. Which may be how she’s kept The Anchor one of Wichita’s most popular bar and restaurants for 14 years.
Wait times at the place can be ridiculous, she says, so much that regular customers have figured the best times to come for faster service. Some of the city’s best cooks and wait staff, people she’d love to hire, don’t want to work there because its physical set-up makes for chaotic working conditions.
For those reasons, Gross said, “We plateaued eight years ago.”
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But Gross has a plan. This fall, she plans to shut down The Anchor for six to eight weeks for renovation — a “complete gutting,” in her words. When it re-opens, The Anchor’s two main dining areas will no longer be dissected by a long bar, the kitchen will be worthy of the food produced there, and those bathrooms — let’s just say you won’t recognize them.
The Anchor is one of four finalists for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Small Business Award for Tier II businesses – those that employ 26 to 100 people.
While it is being renovated, Anchor fans will be able to get their fix of craft beer, burgers and specialty sandwiches around the corner. Gross plans to transfer operations temporarily to the former Roots & Bloom at 151 S. Laura. “We’re calling it The Anchor 151,” she said.
And then, when The Anchor re-opens, Gross hopes to operate the Laura Street property as an event venue featuring indoor and outdoor seating and a huge meat smoker. “Wichita’s a barbecue town.”
Gross has been catering to Wichita’s tastes a long time. Self-employed since her last year of high school, she spent 12 years in the body modification business, owning and operating the Holier Than Thou piercing parlor and Hell Bomb Tattoos. She opened The Anchor “as a distraction” from those businesses and gradually became a leader in the city’s craft beer and local food movement.
A decade ago, she started a Strong Ale Fest that’s become a must-stop for local beer aficionados, and The Anchor carries beers from the city’s growing microbrewery scene as fast they become available. “Somebody asked if we were participating in Kansas Craft Beer Week,” Gross said. “It’s always Kansas craft beer week in here.”
Gross works with a variety of local food suppliers, bringing in Red Wattle pork from Wendland Farms in Barnes, chicken and duck eggs from RC Farms and produce from several Wichita growers. “There’s a closeness,” she said of her relationship with local vendors. “It’s just normal. These are people I run into all the time.”
In 2014, she opened Fork & Fennel, a bistro in College Hill, and the Douglas Avenue Chop Shop, a butcher shop adjacent to The Anchor, both featuring locally produced meat, cheeses and other foods.
Gross closed Fork & Fennel two years later. She says starting Fork & Fennel “wasn’t a bad move, it was just bad timing,” although she’s happy to have fixed up a building in the neighborhood she calls home (Dempsey’s Biscuit Co. now occupies the space). Gross admits her bankers probably have a different view.
It was a difficult time for reasons having nothing to do with business. Gross lost several close friends during that period, including fellow restaurateur Tanya Tandoc. She says longtime employees helped pull her through that period. Today, the butcher shop is a break even operation. The renovated Anchor will include a direct opening to it, which Gross hopes will drive sales there.
As for The Anchor itself, it’ll feature more of what its fans already love — going from 58 beers on tap to 96, for instance. That fits with one important lesson Gross says she’s learned over the years:
“My best move was constantly expanding The Anchor.”
Address: 1109 E. Douglas Ave.
Owner: Schane Gross