Work underway to secure new Thriftway tenant
City has already received inquiries on downtown building
The Thriftway in Downtown Bonner Springs is closing, but work is well underway behind the scenes to secure a new tenant and owner.
Kyu Lee, owner of the building at 112 Oak St. that houses both the Thriftway and Dollar General, said Wednesday that the store likely will close Oct. 10. But city officials are hoping the location wouldn’t remain vacant long, with one developer saying the location should be a viable business option.
Lee officially announced the store’s closing last week, even as city officials stated they were doing everything possible to assist Lee and prevent closure of the store, which is the only walkable grocer for many low-income families in the area. In the spring, the city approved support of an application for a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant from the state to make much-needed repairs to the building, and while Lee received the grant, he decided to decline it.
Marc Winkler, owner of a business brokerage in Lenexa, contacted The Chieftain last week inquiring about the grocery store’s closure. Winkler said he was part of an effort to purchase the building and business from the previous owner, Harvey Jacobson, a few years ago, but Jacobson ultimately decided to sell to Lee.
Winkler said that given the state’s approval of the CDBG grant, even with Lee’s required 25 percent match, the business should have been sustainable.
Winkler said he was trying to get in touch with city officials to learn more about the situation.
“Sometimes you do get a second bite at the apple, and we might have an opportunity here,” he said.
On Wednesday, Lee explained that he felt he needed to sell his other business, K.C. Liquor at Kansas Avenue and Kansas Highway 7, in order to invest in the grocery store. When he was unable to get a good enough offer for the liquor store, Lee said he had to decline the CDBG grant.
Lee said he was aware of the need for a grocery store in the downtown area and was making efforts to find a buyer that would use the space for a grocery store, saying he had a meeting with a grocery store association on Friday.
Marcia Harrington, economic development director for the city, said contrary to rumors, the CDBG grant could not be automatically transferred to a new owner if someone were to buy the business and building. The new owner would have to partner with the city to reapply for the grant next year, if a new ownership is in place by that point.
She said she and city officials are doing everything possible to ensure that the building is not vacant for long.
“We will help market the building to potential buyers and grocery store operators,” she said.
Harrington said the city has had some inquiries about the property and grocery store, though she couldn’t confirm that Winkler had been among the inquirers.
As for the rumors that Dollar General also would not renew its lease, she added that the store had quite some time left under its existing lease and she did not have any indication from Dollar General that it planned to close or move elsewhere at the end of the lease period.