Restaurant owner hopes to use church to manufacture sauce
Planning board to consider plans Thursday
Daniel Hipsher has cooked up a new use for the former Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
The century-old church on River Street has been vacant since October when Sacred Heart parish moved into a new Tonganoxie worship center.
Hipsher, the owner of Daniel's barbecue restaurants in Tonganoxie and Lansing, and his brother, Tim Hipsher, plan to use the former church's basement, which has a kitchen, to manufacture barbecue sauce.
And the upstairs will be renovated into a loft apartment where Tim will live.
Buying the building and manufacturing barbecue sauce will be a joint venture with the brothers, Daniel Hipsher said.
Hipsher's hoping neighborhood residents will go along with his plans. Hipsher said the city sent letters to the neighbors as part of the process of applying for a special use permit. The city's planning commission will hold a hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday in the city council chambers to determine whether Hipsher's application will be approved.
Hipsher, who's been in the barbecue business all his life, and who opened his Tonganoxie restaurant in 1997, said he would be a good neighbor.
From the outside, the church will continue to look the same as it always has.
"We're not planning on doing anything to it except taking the cross off the steeple," Hipsher said. "If they (church members) want it, we'd like to donate it back to them for any kind of historical value that they might have."
And Hipsher noted, there will be no commercial signs at the church.
"It's not a retail anything," he said.
The business's activity won't be intrusive in the neighborhood, he said.
"We're probably going to have four deliveries a month," Hipsher said noting the trucks would be "about the size of a UPS truck."
And it's likely, he said, manufacturing will be minimal.
"We're probably looking at hopefully 400 bottles (16-ounce) a month," Hipsher said. "If we can produce 400 to 500 bottles a month then it will be worthwhile. ... The bulk of what we're going to be doing is five-gallon buckets of sauce for the restaurants."
Since 2001, Hipsher and his wife, Alisha, also have operated a Daniel's Barbecue restaurant in Lansing.
Parking will not be a problem at the former church, either, Hipsher said. The building's present owner, Jack Willis, plans to flatten the slope directly behind the church for parking.
Bill and Vi Lux have lived across the street from Sacred Heart Church since 1958. Bill said the church parish was a "good neighbor." And he misses the convenience of walking across the street to attend the Knights of Columbus Lenten fish dinners, or to vote in the church basement. But he said he thinks it's a good idea to turn the now vacant building being into a residence/barbecue sauce kitchen.
"I don't see nothing wrong with it," Lux said. "I think it's fine. ... He's just going to make sauce down here, and upstairs is where his brother will live -- I don't know why it wouldn't work."
A temporary neighbor to the east of the church, Ryan Theno agreed.
Theno bought the church's Father Moriarty Center and is converting it into a four-bedroom house. Last Thursday Theno said he was nearly finished and expected to put the house on the market this week.
"It doesn't bother me at all," Theno said of Hipsher's plans for the former church. "I don't think it's going to create much traffic or anything."
But a neighbor who asked not to be identified expressed concern that Hipsher would locate an outdoor smoker at the former church, or that there would be a Dumpster in which food preparation products would be a nuisance.
"I think we've got zoning rules to protect the city residents," the neighbor said. "Those zoning rules were not put into effect to have changes made -- special-use permits. When we buy houses we buy a house knowing the zoning rules are not to be changed -- not wanting to put a business in a residential neighborhood."
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