Chris Schultz has a vision for his two downtown Topeka businesses.
And he’s willing to wait to put what he envisions into place at Field of Greens and The Break Room, 909 and 911 S. Kansas.
Schultz has grasped tightly to a sunny outlook, even as challenges have rained down on the two businesses. From construction that made it difficult to access the store to water leaks to a December fire and even the theft of copper wires outside his business that meant he had to throw refrigerated products away, he has focused on the future.
“When the fire happened, I tried to look at the fact that somebody drove a lemon truck through the building, how do we make lemonade out of this?” Schultz said.
The “how” came in the opportunity to redesign the space, particularly for The Break Room, but also to include Field of Greens, which was opened back up relatively quickly after the fire. For now, The Break Room is open only for special events, Schultz said.
The plans that were just a concept for Schultz moved closer to reality recently with designs conceived by Topeka architect Scott Gales, of Architect One.
Schultz said his goal with the redesign that incorporates both businesses was to make the space more functional, which would allow for more people, more efficient operations and better access for people with disabilities.
He’s careful, though, to point out that construction won’t start soon and the plans are not set in stone. Maintaining flexibility over the next months is key.
“Instead of us rushing to the plate to finish those designs off, (we’re taking) more time to build the hotel, more time to get some of the other businesses down here open,” Schultz said. “There’s a lot of things that are all happening at the same time.”
As he sees other businesses open up, Schultz said he can determine the best way to add to the offerings downtown. Depending on his future, including whether or not he is elected Topeka mayor, Schultz said his brother, Frank Schultz, who is COO of the company, will “steer the ship” when the project moves forward.
Still, the reality of the plans, lending that visual back-up to what Schultz has been dreaming about, is exciting.
Gales said he did his best to incorporate the vision Schultz has, and to leave the space’s use flexible.
“I think what was important for Chris is that the space have a very metropolitan, urban feel to it,” Gales said. “He wanted a place that was cool and hip to sit in at lunch and have a panini and a beer, as it would be to show up that evening in a black tie with a date and have cocktails and watch a theater production. Then again, you could have a comedy hour and show up in jeans and a t-shirt.”
The redesigned spaces, still subject to change, include a black box theater space, a bar and seating areas, all of which can be blocked off for groups of 50 or 100 people, Gales said.
“This space kind of has that added layer of cultural activity space that can not only be that social event for fun things like the black box theater and dinner parties, and what have you, but he also has a space that provides additional options for folks that are looking to take advantage of the event room downtown at the hotel,” Gales said.
“His two side by side places of business there become a perfect fit,” he added. “It still has an upscale feel to it; it has the theater component, it has the bar, all of those elements you would want in a business setting, an evening business event.”
Gales recalled the night he started talking with Schultz about what he really wanted to do in the space. It was 3 a.m. and smoke was pouring of a building next to Field of Greens and The Break Room. Instead of looking at the fire as a tragedy, it could be an opportunity to reinvent the businesses.
“They love what they do but they would love to have it at a real high level,” Gales said.
Each space has in the past had separate kitchens, although Schultz did not reopen the Break Room’s kitchen after the fire. The new design gives them one modern, centralized kitchen and high-quality restrooms, which has been a challenge in the spaces, Gales said.
“The creation of these preliminary plans comes from the culmination of years of trial and error,” Schultz said. “We want to make sure that the community will stand behind this project and dream with us, as we evolve our community gathering, entertainment and celebration space.”
Change doesn’t happen quickly.
“We believe that long-term success is a carefully slow-cooked dish,” Schultz said. “We want to make sure these ideas ahve enough time to marinate with our community, eventually standing as an even greater destintion location that complements all fo the incredible progress we are currently realizing in downtown Topeka.”