Downtown businesses on the move
While new businesses are cropping up along the U.S. Highway 24-40 corridor, one business chose to leave the highway for downtown.
Lisa Bray, regional branch manager and loan originator for Advantage Investors Mortgage Corporation, said she's glad to be a part of the Fourth Street businesses.
The mortgage company is one of several businesses that have opened or undergone changes at downtown locations.
Bray's office, which since May 2000 was housed at the former Ice Cream Parlor, last month moved the business into the west office area of the former Community National Bank building, at Fourth and Delaware. The building last month was purchased by Calvin and Susan Quisenberry.
Before moving in, Bray remodeled the office, which she said was an extensive process.
"We stripped six layers of wallpaper, three layers of linoleum and replaced the ceiling," Bray said.
Bray, a Basehor native who has lived in Tonganoxie since 1995, opened her own company, Oak Creek Mortgage, in 1999, and the following year began working for AIMC.
Along with her mortgage work, she offers free credit counseling. Her work is rewarding, she said.
"I love it, I absolutely love it," Bray said. "I really thrive on helping people get a house."
Lumber yard expansion
Just down the street, Himpel Lumber is growing.
The owners, Charlie and Shari Ussery had considered moving the business from Fifth and Pleasant to a site along U.S. Highway 24-40, but in March decided instead to purchase a building next to their existing store.
This decision opened room for additional retail and storage space.
R.J. Steph-enson, who works at the business said the store's retail will expand from 2,500 square feet to 4,500 square feet, and about 2,000 square feet of storage space will be added.
The work is well under way. On June 3, a crew from the company's supplier will begin resetting store merchandise. That's expected to take two weeks.
Stephenson said store employees have done double duty during the renovation work, working until midnight to speed the construction process.
It comes out in the wash
Kevin Haislip and Belinda Loboda have been busy this year putting a facelift on Haislip Laundromat, 622 E. Fourth.
Haislip, who has owned the business for 11 years, recently painted the exterior and added a striped awning. Between the Laundromat and the building to the east, a fence and flowers have been added.
"We've also finished up some renovation inside," said Loboda, who works part time at the business.
The business has two large front-loading washing machines, 20 top loaders and nine clothes dryers.
Loboda said the volume of business fluctuates.
"In a small town like this it's up and down because you have people come and go," she said. "You almost have to have a second job."
She noted that Haislip owns another business, Haislip Roofing.
Riding in style
For Scott and Julie Myers, their new business venture, VIP Limousine Service, is on the move.
A year ago the couple sold their confection marketing business and bought their first limousine.
"Then we bought a company out in August of last year and moved it out to Tonganoxie," Scott Myers said.
Today the business, at 815 East Fourth, has six limousines that seat from eight to 10, up to 20 passengers.
Myers estimated that about 40 percent of the business comes from corporations. The rest, he said, is from weddings, bachelor and bachelorette parties, concerts, Chiefs games, trips to the airport and fund-raisers.
The cost to hire a limousine varies from $75 to $295 an hour, depending the occasion.
"About 70 percent of our business is in Overland Park," he said.
Myers said he's been surprised at the amount of local business.
"We're getting a lot of business out of Tonganoxie," he said. "We never thought we'd do a lot of business here."
It takes 12 drivers, including Scott and Julie Myers, to keep the vehicles on the road, he said.
And, Myers added, competition is stiff: "There are probably 50-plus companies just in the Kansas City metro area."
A bright idea
A new business lights up the storefront windows at 616 E. Fourth. Bryan and Tammy Kemp, Linwood, have opened The Lightbulb Place.
"We sell every kind of light bulb and light fixture out of there stadium lights, ballast, all kinds of lighting," Tammy Kemp said. "But our main work is repairing and maintaining lighting for businesses and residences."
Kemp said her husband had worked in the lighting business about 20 years ago.
"He sold it and we went into the real estate business," Kemp said. "About three years ago he decided he wanted to make a change and started it up again."
When the Kemps, who have operated the business from their home since then, decided it was time for a more visible business location, they chose Tonganoxie.
"Tonganoxie is really a vibrant community," Tammy Kemp said. "We thought that would be a good high-profile location. Our children go to the schools there, we know a lot of people there and we really like the town."
Work continues on another downtown business a full-line bakery just west of Holst Pharmacy, owned by Kelly Vogel.