WICHITA — One of Wichita's most well-known – and possibly well-liked – restaurateurs is gone.
Gary Cocking, the longtime owner of Harry's Uptown Bar & Grill near Douglas and Hillside, died Monday after a battle with cancer.
"The guy knew probably as many people in Wichita as anybody," says Darrell Leason, a commercial real estate and investment broker.
He says Mr. Cocking's way with people is what made him such a good businessman.
"He was excellent with people – never met a stranger ... and had a great memory for people's names and faces."
Cocking grew up working in his family's restaurants, such as Wilbur & Susie's near the stockyards on 21st Street, and he opened his first place – the Embers – in the late '60s.
He went on to own the College Inn and the Rodeo, among other places, and manage businesses such as Nirt & Girty's and Carlos & Wong's.
"He knew how to operate a bar and how to make it a good place to hang out," says Jeff Breault, who owns R&J Discount Liquor, which is just down from Harry's.
"He made that ... 'Cheers' atmosphere."
Businessman Max Cole, a close friend of Mr. Cocking's from childhood, says he was someone you could see from across the room and know "you'd like to meet him and be around him."