Archive for Thursday, May 9, 2002

Several companies find homes in Tonganoxie’s business park

May 9, 2002

Urban Hess Business Park in Tonganoxie is starting to bustle, but that construction could have occurred in Leavenworth.

In 1988, several people in the county, specifically county commissioners, decided the county needed an industrial site. The Leavenworth Area Development had a search committee and 140 sites were assessed. The list was shortened to two one in Leavenworth, one in Tonganoxie.

In 1989, Leavenworth made sewer and road improvements at its proposed site at 13th and Eisenhower. In 1996, Tonganoxie extended its sewer and built a water tower at Laming Road and U.S. Highway 24-40.

The Leavenworth Port Authority built a spec building at Urban Hess. Then two years ago, Everlasting Specialties Inc., owned by Steve LaForge and Jim Bennett, Tonganoxie, became the industrial park's first tenants.

"Tonganoxie's advantage was that it was flat and moldable," said Gary Carlson, LAD director. Although the Leavenworth site didn't attract the industrial park through the port authority, it has established its own businesses.

The port authority generates some money by building new structures and then selling them to businesses, or selling sites. S&S Alloy, also in Urban Hess, is located in a building built by the port authority.

Two other businesses Countryside Garden Center and Right Choice Pharmaceutical purchased land and built buildings. The Cabinet Shop of Basehor has also bought ground, but its plans are on hold.

Steve Kelly, Overland Park, purchased a large tract he plans to develop on his own.

These businesses have moved to Urban Hess:

Everlasting Specialties Inc.

What started out as a hobby turned into a company for local residents.

Steve LaForge and his brother-in-law Jim Bennett started a dried-flower wholesale distribution company more than 12 years ago. Flowers were stored in the depot at Main and Fifth streets in Tonganoxie, among other buildings.

Having a large garden, LaForge at one time sold excess flowers out of the back of his truck.

"We grew too many," he said. "We just decided we'd make a business of it."

The business sells to the wholesale market and to retail stores on the Internet only.

Countryside Garden Center

Countryside Garden Center focuses on fresh flowers and the gardeners who grow them.

The greenhouse and garden retail business, owned by Art Hancock and Twila Hickman, offers various bedding plants, along with vegetables, trees, shrubs and mulch. Garden accessories, lawn care products and tools are also available, and the center soon will be selling cement statuary. The center opened last October.

Hickman said Urban Hess was an attractive spot for the business because of the location and the opportunity to build right away.

"It didn't require a lot of development," Hickman said. "We went from the ground up, but we went in and started working on it right away."

S&S Alloy

For Gerald Shepherd, two points attracted him to Urban Hess location and finances. Shepherd lives seven miles south of Tonganoxie and his family-owned business, S&S Alloy, got a lease-purchase agreement through the port authority. He runs the company with his wife, Jayna, and their son, Darren, Tonganoxie, and daughter, Dayna Miller, Basehor.

The stocking-steel distribution company was previously in Olathe for five years, but Shepherd said Tonganoxie had other financial advantages.

"The tax structure is less than it is in Johnson County," Shepherd said.

The supply service stocks alloy, stainless steel, copper, brass, aluminum and tool steel, and it's shipped to Nebraska, Missouri, and all of Kansas by a common carrier. The company also delivers within a 50-mile radius with its own vehicles. The company sells to manufacturers, machine shops, tool and die shops and some individuals.

Right Choice Pharmacy

One company in the Urban Hess Business Center has just what the doctor ordered, or more accurately, what the pharmacist ordered.

Right Choice Pharmacy, which is just west of S&S Alloy, contracts with pharmacies to fill prescriptions. The firm opened last October.

Through automation, prescriptions are filled at Right Choice, and then sent by courier to pharmacies where people can pick up their prescriptions the next day.

Jim Aldrich, an accountant in Council Grove, and his wife, Connie, a pharmacist, own the company with a Wichita couple.

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