The Science Education Center might sound like a building on a school campus somewhere, but it’s actually a 62-year-old hobby shop for people like owner Mark Logan.
“There’s always a group of kids and adults that just love science,” Logan said.
Indeed, Logan was a customer of the Science Education Center for decades before acquiring it.
“I bought rockets and telescopes and eventually just bought it all,” said Logan, who remembers visiting the store as a 10-year-old when it was located at Hillside and Douglas.
The store, which is known for carrying a wide range of science kits, was started in 1957 by two former teachers and sisters named Bennett and located inside Buck’s Department Store in downtown Wichita.
“It wasn’t too long after (the Soviet Union spacecraft) Sputnik,” Logan said. “Everybody was wanting to get more into science education.”
The Kuhns family bought and ran it until 1996, when Logan purchased it. He moved it to Boulevard Plaza, at Lincoln and George Washington Boulevard, in 2002, which at the time was “full of fun, weird little businesses.” His wife, Sherry, also works in the shop.
Logan said the store carries items for people “from 5 to 105,” in fields such as electronics, chemistry, anatomy and magnetism. Robots have become a popular item over the past decade.
Many regular customers are members of the KLOUDBusters, which Logan said is the largest high-powered rocket club in the nation. Launching out of a farm field near Argonia, about 55 miles southwest of Wichita, the club obtains permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly up to 50,000 feet.
Members of the Kansas Astronomical Observers also shop there frequently.
“Kansas has such dark skies, you don’t have to go far to see galaxies and nebulas,” Logan said.
Home-schooled students and private schools without large science departments also utilize the shop.
Logan said interest in science follow trends.
“When Mars was close, telescopes were very popular. With certain movies like ‘Jurassic Park,’ we’ll go through archeology stuff. This year is the anniversary of the Apollo II landing on the moon. That’s stirring interest in rockets already this year.”
Last month, Logan moved the store from Boulevard Plaza back to Douglas, this time just west of I-I35. His was the last business left on Boulevard Plaza’s west strip.
“It had just gotten kind of dead over there,” he said. “The economy did a number on a lot of small businesses.”
The new location is about the same size – 2,000 square feet – as the former spot, but Logan said the higher visibility afforded by Douglas is already paying off.
“You’ve got the Douglas Design District that is growing and the Spice Merchant right across the street – good coffee and a lot of traffic. (People) point and stare and come over here.”
Science Education Center
Address: 1321 E. Douglas Ave.
Owner: Mark Logan