Think things are bad in Kansas City, it’s no cakewalk in Lawrence these days either…
That according to businessman John Kiefer, the owner of Kiefs Audio / Video and numerous shopping center and real estate properties around the city.
"Look at the last few months in Lawrence," Kiefer says. "Sears is going to close – that’s an 80,000 square foot store. Old Navy is going to close – that’s a 20,000 square foot store. Borders is gone and nobody’s leased that space. Blockbuster had a pretty good size store on 23rd Street and they’re gone. And downtown people are going in and out like crazy."
And the days appear numbered for big box stores like Best Buy, Kiefer says.
"Best Buy today is starting to be labled by the students as a fancy ass Radio Shack," he says. "What do they even have in audio? They don’t even have sound rooms. Best Buy has a problem because they’re the last remaining (audio/video) specialty store. Now if KU was the only good basketball team in the country, who would they have to play?"
Any signs Lawrence may be poised to mount a comeback?
"Well, we like to brag that we are," Kiefer quips. "We have 80,000 people in Lawrence with half of them either students or student affiliated."
However, Lawrence’s vaunted downtown is rapidly turning into Aggieville East.
"It’s called the Central Business District," Kiefer says. "But every building that goes vacant turns into a bar, a restaurant or a game store."
Retail is dying because while students and shoppers can price shop most goods on the Web, ‘You can’t buy food and liquor on the Internet," Kiefer says. "Look at what’s there closely. There’s very little retail."
Which brings us to Lawrence’s, uh, sports economy.
Kiefer is bullish on KU Football, "because we have a new coach who has a tremendous record with guys in the pros," he says. "Last year couldn’t have been worse and we have a weaker schedule this year, so we’ll win some games. Our last coach (Turner Gill) left us with some good players in the backfield but no offensive line. So even though people criticize our last coach, he did a good job but our alumni didn’t want to wait."
Kiefer’s take on Missouri leaving the Big 12?
"Who cares? I don’t. Our rivalry was a wonderful thing, but there was no rivalry in basketball and in football they beat us. The last time we had a basketball rivalry was when they had Norm Stewart."