One of the many things the pandemic derailed in Wichita was progress at Wichita State University’s Braeburn Square, restaurant and business development on the school’s Innovation Campus near 21st and Oliver.
“COVID has taken a toll on any . . . new restaurants that want to open,” said Tonya Witherspoon, associate vice president of industry engagement and applied learning.
Now the university is making up for it with the announcement of three new restaurants and a shop, which will bring the first building in Braeburn Square to 100% occupancy.
New businesses include Sesame Mediterranean Kitchen, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Two Hands Korean Corn Dogs, and Pedego Wichita electric bike shop.
They join existing tenants Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Social Tap Drinkery, Sungrano Pizza, Wheatly’s, Meritrust Credit Union and Shocker Store.
Journey East Asia Grill restaurant in Braeburn Square has been closed during the pandemic.
“The only reason it looks like all of these are opening at the same time is that it’s time for the restaurants to finally reopen,” Witherspoon said. “At the same time . . . we also have some new business partners opening up.”
The NetApp building was ready nearly a year ago, but employees still had a global work-from-home order, which has now been lifted.
Airbus is also open and WSU is fully back, Witherspoon said.
“All that . . . she helped.”
He said the three new restaurants along with the existing ones offer good variety for diners.
Braeburn has an area for concerts and events and previously the school had to bring in food trucks for those events as there were not enough restaurants.
“It’s going to be a really cool place to hang out,” Witherspoon said.
There is also room for other activities.
“On the other side of the lake, there’s some space,” Witherspoon said.
It’s all part of the vision the late President John Bardo had for the Innovation Campus.
“All his . . . the plan was to live, learn, play,” Witherspoon said. “We really made it come alive. I think about it often.
In the three short years that Pedego Wichita has opened here, Braeburn Square will build its third new site.
“And I’ll say third and last,” said co-owner Russell Groves.
The electric bike shop functioned a bit as a pop-up shop at Bradley Fair.
“We are extremely grateful for our chance to be at Bradley Fair,” Groves said. “It was a wonderful location.”
Still, it’s in 7,400 square feet, “And a 7,400-square-foot bike shop looks empty.”
The space had been a former Versona accessories store and Groves said: “We still have the crystal chandeliers from that period. We will miss being the only Pedego with chandeliers.”
Groves said the new store, which he hopes will open by the end of March, “is an opportunity to build a bridge between the Wichita community and the Wichita state community.”
“It will be an opportunity for the community that is not connected to the state of Wichita to get a better look at the state of Wichita from the back of a Pedego.”
He said it will be especially useful for students, including international students, who may not have vehicles.
Additionally, Groves said, “It’s going to be a lot easier than dealing with the parking situation in the state of Wichita.”
Russell Groves said his new Pedego store, which he hopes will open in Braeburn Square by the end of March, “is an opportunity to build a bridge between the Wichita community and the Wichita State community.” Courtesy photo
Nothing is finalized yet on a rental program, but Groves plans to offer long-term leases, such as one or two semesters.
He’s not interested in short-term leases given the high-end nature of bikes and how often they get stolen. Additionally, Groves said he wanted more responsibility than a shared bike would offer.
The bikes cost around $3,000, though Groves sells used ones for less.
The new store will be 1,440 square feet.
“It’ll take a big enough shoe horn to move it down there,” Groves said. “It will be a completely different display.”
There will be high ceilings, 8-foot tapestries for bikes, and then a neutral gray space above those for displaying artwork.
“I’d love for it to be a place where students and non-students alike could showcase some fun bicycle-related art,” Groves said.
Pedego has been a sponsor of AfterShocks, the Wichita State Shockers alumni team, and Groves said the shop will donate some bikes to the WSU Police as it has done to the Wichita Police Department.
He said he hears donations like that come back to the store in myriad ways.
Additionally, Groves said, “The state of Wichita has been absolutely wonderful for us.”
Choosing Braeburn Square for his second Sesame Mediterranean Kitchen is partly sentimental for Youssef Youssef.
The Lebanon native first came to Wichita in 1988 as an electrical engineering student at WSU.
“I love Wichita State,” she said.
While still at school, Youssef opened Le Monde on West Street, thinking a restaurant would allow him to manage his busy schedule.
About 20 restaurants and bakeries later, in both Wichita and Beirut, Youssef said he still finds himself dreaming of being in charge of his own show.
It was a tough lesson to learn, but Youssef said, “The restaurant business has been great for me and I’ve given my whole heart.”
Youssef Youssef is opening his second Sesame Mediterranean Kitchen on Braeburn Square in Wichita State. The first of him, pictured here, is on the west side. Stock photo
Youssef ran WSU’s University Alumni and Faculty Club, later renamed the University Cafe, before it closed, and has called it one of his favorite ventures ever.
When he returned to Wichita three years ago after an economic slump in Beirut, Youssef said he was considering opening in Braeburn Square, but the area was still new and the pandemic had just begun. Besides, he lost so much in Beirut.
“You could say I backed out.”
He had the opportunity to open the first Sesame Mediterranean on the west side at 2755 N. Maize Road, and Youssef said it went well.
Next week – as soon as it receives its license from the health department – it will open the second of the informal Lebanese restaurants. Like the one on the west side, Braeburn Square Sesame Mediterranean will serve traditional Lebanese and Greek dishes such as hummus, shawarma, falafel, kababs and pizzas.
There will be no alcohol in the restaurant, but diners can bring their own drinks from Social Tap.
Like the original Sesame Mediterranean, this one will feature ordering at the counter and workers will bring the food to diners’ tables.
Youssef said it’s a great place with a large population, including many international students.
“I’m thrilled, especially to be here at WSU.”
Ready or Not
The Braeburn Square Jersey Mike’s will be the fourth in the greater Wichita area for the New Jersey-based franchise.
Another franchisee has two Jersey Mike’s restaurants in Wichita and one in Derby.
Annette and Ryan Hennes have the opening in Braeburn Square, and Annette Hennes will manage the restaurant.
She said she was interested in opening a Jersey Mike’s a few years ago, but her kids were younger then.
“I wasn’t ready yet.”
Now it is, and Hennes said, “I love it. . . that Innovation Campus and the potential present in that area of the city”.
The secondary store will open in May.
A Jersey Mike’s similar to this one in east Wichita will open in Braeburn Square in Wichita state. Jaime Green/The Wichita Eagle
“The concept is simple,” Hennes said. “It’s just fresh and of the best quality.”
He said the line to order centers around a meat crate concept.
There’s also a cold sideline and a hot grill, with items like a Philly cheesesteak sandwich.
Hennes said the restaurant cuts the meat in front of customers and has other ingredients prepared the same day they are served.
“It’s just about the atmosphere and the service and the banter, talking to the employees down the line,” she said.
Jersey Mike will be open 10am-9pm daily.
There will be around 20 seats inside and more overlooking a lake out back. Hennes said a garage door will open in the back. You said the outdoor area is one of the great features of Braeburn Square.
“We are simply thrilled to be a part of . . . the university there.
Two Hands Korean Corn Dogs is a California-based franchise that’s capitalizing on a Korean food trend.
The take-out restaurant’s only specialty is corn dogs, but “the outside is where it’s interesting,” said one of the two franchisees, who prefers not to be named.
Toppings include sweet or spicy options.
Corn dogs are made with hot dogs, melted mozzarella or a mixture of both, and are coated in a rice flour batter and then deep fried.
Two Hands Korean Corn Dogs is a California-based franchise that’s capitalizing on a Korean food trend. Courtesy photo
They are then topped or rolled in things like hot Cheetos powder, potato cubes, rice crispy puffs or bean powder and topped with various sauces. They’re quite filling, local franchisees said, and they’re fun to eat.
Two Hands will also serve foods like french fries with kimchi toppings, slushies and soft serve ice cream along with elote, which is Mexican corn on the cob with toppings.
College students are an especially good market for the restaurant, the franchisees said. Nothing will be more than about $5 or $6.
Look for Two Hands to open around May.
Check it out
Witherspoon said Braeburn Square will have a number of great places to hang out, particularly before games and events. You said people can stop by for a bite and then take a shuttle to their event.
“It also helps with parking, I think,” she said. “All of this makes the university a little more inviting to the community. At least that’s our hope.”
She said the Innovation Campus is also a great place to take walks and view sculptures and gardens in a dog-friendly space.
Witherspoon said she even knows doctors and clinics advising rehab patients to walk there on all-new, all-uniform sidewalks—a plus on top of the restaurants and businesses.
“I’d just like to invite everyone to try it.”