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MAY 13, 2016: “Luckiest businesses in Wichita tell all”

Friday the 13th is for most people a silly superstition at best. But for some Wichita businesses, luck is not something to be dismissed: It is the very name of their business.

The Eagle stopped by every store in Wichita that is or was recently called Luckys to see what they could teach us about luck: a bar, a print shop, a smoke shop, a private investigation firm, a tattoo lounge, a vape shop, a pawn shop, an Asian grocery and a car dealer.

Only the car dealer, Lucky 7 Used Cars, was scared away from talking about luck on Friday the 13th.

The idea of studying luck isn’t just a fool’s errand: Several recent studies have shown that people who attribute their success, at least in part, to luck tend to be more civic minded.

But many small-business owners, in particular, forget about the lucky opportunities that helped them achieve success: It’s easier for people to remember all the hard work and struggle it takes to run a small business than the random connections or fortuitous turns of the market that paved the way.

Some of the businesses put luck in their names because they described the business, such as the gaming machines at Lucky Smoke Spot. Some just thought it sounded cool.

Lucky Market, which sells Asian specialty foods, has done well, according to Tony Wynn, a manager, but that’s due more to their hard work than luck, he said. He is Christian and doesn’t believe in luck. However, Wynn said he did agree with the general sentiment of a fortunate cookie sold at their store this week: “Genius is nothing but a great aptitude for patience.”

Lucky’s Everyday Bar

Crystal Harper has been working in bars for years, but she said it wasn’t until she started work at Lucky’s Everyday that she got the kind of luck that many people go to bars looking for.

Harper worked at Barleycorn’s for more than 10 years, but had to start at Lucky’s after an ownership change.

About a month ago, she decided to stop in at Lucky’s for a shot, after running three miles at the gym. Harper had finished her shot when a cute guy walked in and started playing pool by himself. “I had already paid and everything, and was getting ready to go. And luckily I hadn’t left yet,” Harper said.

She had seen the guy working at Fork and Fennel and wanted to play pool with him but she was smelly and unkempt. The bartender on duty asked Harper if she wanted to take the man home that night. “No?” the bartender said. “So then what does it matter? “

She and the man played pool and talked all night until the bar closed. They went to coffee the next morning and have been inseparable ever since, she said.

“I haven’t had a boyfriend in years,” Harper said. “I was sticky and hadn’t showered and hadn’t shaved. I was disgusting. I guess those sweaty pheromones worked for me.”….Continue reading

October 7, 2016 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s skills and values grew in Kansas

In 2008, Juan Carlos Santos, the minister of defense in Colombia and a University of Kansas alumnus, was waiting to hear what happened to a top secret mission to free hostages in the jungle.

Santos had planned to have government soldiers disguise themselves as international peacekeepers and then free the hostages. The rebel group, FARC, who had three American prisoners, had been clashing with the government for more than 50 years.

This moment could make or break Santo’s career. But he couldn’t tell anybody, not even his closest advisers. He had to remain stoic.

This was a skill he learned playing poker late into the nights at Delta Epsilon fraternity at KU, he told the university when he returned to speak in 2012. He had learned to take huge risks without flinching.

After freeing the hostages, he continued his attacks on rebels. But two years later he became president of Colombia and took a softer approach: He returned land that had been taken from the poor over decades of fighting. These actions paved the way for peace negotiations in Colombia.

On Friday, Santos was award the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating a peace treaty with FARC.

But during his talk in 2012, he had already predicted that it would be a struggle to win full support for any peace agreement. Colombia voted against the peace treaty this week.

“There will be people on both extremes that will not be satisfied,” Santos told the crowd at KU in 2012. “The people who would like more justice will say this is unacceptable, and people who would like more peace will say this is unacceptable. But if the big majority of the country takes a decision, and I hope it will, and we negotiate a good agreement, then that’s the only solution we have.”….Continue reading


The Wichita Eagle

If each functioning bike speeds along in basically the same way, each broken one has a unique story.

This is a lesson that Alan Kailer, 61, has learned in his first months repairing bikes for the homeless in the parking lot of Open Door on Wednesday mornings. This is the first time in recent memory that bike repairs have been offered at the shelter. Kailer doesn’t see the fancy bike-shop bikes – with expensive parts finely tuned by silver screwdriver – that he rides and was used to fixing.

So when Matt Barley, 52, recently showed up with an unusual braking mechanism, Kailer just squinted and got to work. When Kailer saw that the brakes were tied together with a piece of coat hanger, even he had to laugh.

Barley showed up that day to Open Door – a homeless center in downtown Wichita that provides food and clothing – looking for a better fitting shirt. But as he was biking across the parking lot, he saw Kailer.

“I stopped by Bike X-Change, and they wanted 80 bucks to fix a 10-dollar bike,” Barley said. Barley already had two bikes stolen and didn’t want to pay.

After looking the bike over, Kailer told him that he couldn’t fix the brakes.

“(Barley) could also use new tires,” Kailer said. “But is that the best place to use the tires I have? He’s probably not going to be riding real long on that bike. His best bet would be to find another bike.”

These are the kinds of calculations Kailer has learned to make since he started hauling his bike repair tools and donated spare parts to the shelter in the back of his blue van.

Kailer retired to Wichita last year after 35 years as a corporate lawyer in Dallas, where he was a member of the local bike club. So it was natural for him to join Bike Walk Wichita, the city’s bicycle advocacy organization. When someone asked if anyone would be willing to help repair bikes for the homeless, Kailer volunteered.

Kailer mostly does simple repairs such as fix brake-wires, grease bike chains and tighten spokes. It’s simple work in a T-shirt compared to the sometimes-intense work of a corporate lawyer. Kailer recently started picking up a few replacement pedals and wheels to add to his repertoire of repairs. That is, when they fit….Continue Reading

August 25, 2015
“Donations, circus event for Wichita man who repairs bikes for homeless”

The Wichita Eagle

Alan Kailer, who repairs bikes for the homeless in the parking lot of United Methodist Open Door, said that his neighbor recently asked him, “Are you that bike guy?”

Kailer told him “I guess,” and his neighbor promptly donated three bikes to the cause.

After a story appeared in The Wichita Eagle in July about Kailer’s bike repair work, readers responded with bike donations and offers to help do the repairs. And Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, which is in Wichita this week, offered to hold a special event to encourage people to donate bikes.

Now Kailer’s and a friend’s garages are so full with 20 donated bikes that he’s looking for a full-time space where he can store them. That will also allow volunteers to do some work over the weekends….Continue Reading

July 1, 2015
“Young beekeeper helps contain escaped bees in Wichita parking lot”

The Wichita Eagle

When workers showed up at ProBuild at 125 W. MacArthur Road around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, they were in for a big surprise: A swarm of bees had taken up residence near the business.

Several thousand bees escaped after a semi transporting them broke down early Wednesday morning, authorities said. Calls to 911 shortly before 8 a.m. reported “people were getting stung” by the renegade bees, a Sedgwick County emergency dispatcher said.

Beekeeping help didn’t arrive until just after 9 a.m.

Renee Knoblauch and her daughter Ann showed up with beekeeping gear ready to help after hearing about it on Yahoo. Ann developed her love of bees on a field trip to see beekeepers about five years ago. At the time, Renee was too afraid of stinging insects to go into the hive, but Ann put on the beekeeping suit. A bee got stuck on Ann’s neck and stung her in the head, and she started crying.

“We flicked it out and she headed right back to the hive,” Renee said.

“I’m fearless,” said Ann. “I’m just born that way.”

When they first arrived on the scene Wednesday morning, Renee didn’t think there were that many bees because she saw piles of dead bees. But when Renee and Ann put on their beekeeping gear they saw thousands….Continue Reading

November 17, 2015
“Wichita firefighter honored for rescue of woman”

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Letitia Houston, 38, was reading a romance novel in her pajamas in bed on March 15 when she noticed smoke in the living room of her apartment. She thought it was from her cigarette. She looked in the garbage to make sure a butt hadn’t caught fire, didn’t notice anything and went back to reading in her apartment.

Lt. Rob Kanaga, who had already been named firefighter of the year in Wichita for his actions that day, was given statewide honors at a Wichita City Council meeting Tuesday. Because March 15 was a Sunday, he said, he was probably watching TV or playing cards at about 1:30 p.m. when the bell at the station rang three times to signal a fire.

Houston had moved into the apartment in southwest Wichita five months before because she wanted to be on her own again. She had suffered a stroke two years before and had been temporarily paralyzed. But now she could get up and down the stairs on her own – it just took a little longer. She said she’d asked for one of the apartments on the ground floor, but none was available, so she took the one in the middle of the second floor.

Two minutes after she’d gotten up the first time on that Sunday, Houston said, her apartment had filled with smoke. She sometimes saw bonfires across the alley of her apartment at the 1300 block of West Walker, so Houston wasn’t too nervous. But when she went to the door, flames burst through the windows, she said.

She opened the sliding glass door to her balcony. Burning embers fell onto her arms and legs, she said, melting her pajama pants to her leg in one spot. She yelled for help, but nobody seemed to be out back. She went back inside, a few feet from the door, and lay on the ground with her head sticking out for fresh air….Continue Reading

September 7, 2015

“Wichita nonprofit plans to help former sex workers turn their lives around”

The Wichita Eagle

Vicki Bond sees a metaphor in everything.

She leads the Raise My Head Foundation, a nonprofit that is building a home and community that she hopes, over the course of two years, will transform the lives of former prostitutes in Wichita. It is holding its first major fundraiser on Thursday.

Sex workers are similar to mislabeled cans of soup, she said – society has discarded them without seeing their true potential inside.

The foundation is like the Kansas sunflower, rooted in the soil of the Wichita community but which will reach its full potential through a community of women who will – like the petals of a flower – show off to the world what they are capable of, she said.

And the home the foundation has purchased to house the women during their two-year transformation has a long history but will soon be refurbished, a physical reminder of the past the women came from and the future they can look forward to.

“I love the fact that it creaks,” Bond said, climbing the stairs of the house recently. “These women have been on such a journey that their body creaks and their bodies tell of a journey that they’ve been on.”

Her own journey to this house started with a prayer. Although she is the chief operating officer of a major local medical service company and a mom to three, a few years ago, she said, she was wrestling with what her spiritual contribution to the world would be.

“I asked the Lord to give me something I can wrap my arms around,” Bond said. “Give me something I can dive in deep with, give me something I can adopt for life.”….Continue Reading


November 28, 2015
“Why Wichitans give so much money and how they could give better”

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Marli Houpp’s fiance, Coleton Stitt, fell asleep at the wheel in Wichita and was killed on June 10.

For months afterward, Heather Hayden, Houpp’s mother, tried inviting her daughter home for meals, tried to talk to her and offered counseling. Nothing worked.

“She doesn’t want to discuss any of it,” Hayden said. “She doesn’t want to deal with it.”

In October she got an idea. Last year, Stitt received a pair of pajamas on Christmas, just like Hayden’s family does every year. What if they tried to get people to donate pajamas in Stitt’s name?

They would donate them to the Wichita Children’s Home so some children would feel warm and toasty and special, and the family could focus on that instead of their loss this holiday.

The holiday season is the busiest time for nonprofits; many receive 40 percent of their donations in December. For many Wichitans, like Hayden and Houpp, why they give and how they give is personal, often tied to a specific episode in their lives.

Since starting their effort, Hayden and Houpp have received pajamas and some money to buy pajamas. So they travel to Target together once a week.

“This is something she looks forward to doing, for once,” Hayden said. “She’s excited.”

Hayden and Houpp post pictures of the pajamas they buy on the Facebook page they’ve set up. They already have received more than 30 and are hoping for 100.

“I have no other way to help comfort my daughter,” Hayden said….Continue Reading

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