A-OK Pawn Shops owner Bruce Harris to start Better Living lease-to-own business
Published in The Wichita Eagle
Written by Carrie Rengers
WICHITA — A-OK Pawn Shops owner Bruce Harris is starting a new lease-to-own furniture business that he hopes will become a chain of stores.
“It’s a brand-new concept we’re coming up with,” he says of Better Living.
The first store will open in 35,000 square feet at the Marina Lakes Shopping Center at 21st and Amidon next to where Harris is opening a new pawn shop, jewelry store and phone store along with a tax services, payday loans and check cashing center.
“Other large chains of pawn shops around the country are starting to do this,” he says.
Harris says he wants to “give people a better choice” on furniture, appliances and TVs.
“We’re going to try to upscale that,” he says.
Harris says he’s starting the concept in response to customers’ requests.
“We’re giving them an additional option,” he says. “It’s very similar to the retail side of our pawn business.”
Most of the first Better Living will be in the former Hollywood Videospace at Marina Lakes. An additional 10,000 square feet for storage will come from the strip center next door.
If the business is successful, Harris says he’ll add a Better Living to his pawn shop complex at Harry and Oliver next.
Eventually, he says he wants to expand the centers – including the Better Living stores – to Hutchinson and the Kansas City market.
“We’re becoming a developer rather than just a pawn shop.”
Harris and Larry Cook have already been redeveloping Marina Lakes, where there’s a new Walmart Neighborhood Market. A Planet Fitnessalso is coming to the center.
There’s 70,000 square feet left to lease at the 115,000-square-foot development.
“It’s going to become a very great place to go right in the middle of Wichita,” Harris says. “We’re going to revitalize that area of town.”
He says the 21st and Amidon intersection “used to be the hottest place in town” but has suffered from blight for about two decades.
“We want to make it pop again,” Harris says.
He and Cook are renaming Marina Lakes New Leaf Plaza.
“We wanted to give 21st and Amidon a new look, a new leaf and a new lease on life,” Harris says. “I’m not going to just put a Band-Aid on (it). We’re going to redo the whole damn thing and make it first class.
“We’re going to bring it back to life.”