By Amy Geiszler-Jones
Late last month, the upscale home-furnishing store Pottery Barn became the newest tenant in Bradley Fair, the upscale dining, shopping and leisure complex off 21st Street and Rock
Road that pioneered the concept of a destination lifestyle center in Wichita. The addition of Pottery Barn is just one of several new things happening at Bradley Fair this year, noted Amy Liebau, vice president and chief operating officer for Laham Development.
The shopping center added popular clothing and accessory store J. Crew to its list of tenants, local eatery favorites Bella Luna and Cocoa Dolce underwent upgrades, and major retailers Bath and Body Works and Victoria’s Secret will double in size, allowing those retailers to bring in or expand popular product lines. With new space, Bath and Body Works is adding its White Barn candle concept to its offerings, while Victoria’s Secret is expanding its PINK line, popular among college women.
While it was the vision of a young real estate broker in 1988 that created Bradley Fair out of a horse farm, it’s been the Wichita and surrounding communities that also deserve credit for its success, Liebau said.
“When (people) shop at our stores and eat at our restaurants, they are helping them become successful, which then leads to other nationals wanting to follow suit,” Liebau said.
Loyal hometown businesses also have helped create unique shopping experiences, allowing customers to shop local amongst national retailers.
“A key part of our success has been the local tenants,” Liebau said. “Some of them have been with us since the beginning. We started 26 years ago with 28,000 square feet and 13 tenants – stores and restaurants that included Randy Cooper’s Fine Jewelry and Trios, and today we’re at 280,000 square feet and 50 stores, and that still includes Randy Cooper’s and Trios. I think that says a lot about how we treat our tenants.”
That treatment is what led to Pottery Barn signing up as the latest tenant.
“Pottery Barn is owned by the same company as Williams-Sonoma,” explained Liebau. “Williams-Sonoma has been here for almost 20 years. They’ve enjoyed great success and because of that great success and our existing relationship, they were willing to bring Pottery Barn to a market of this size. Wichita is probably one of the smallest markets to have a lifestyle center, and so when the national retailers look to see where to locate, they look at the success of other nationals.”
In the retail industry, a lifestyle center refers to a shopping center that provides dining and shopping opportunities alongside other amenities like those offered at Bradley Fair: the year-round fountain, an expansive Mediterranean-style plaza, a lake and community events. Bradley Fair sees plenty of the latter – from engagement and prom photos taken on its picturesque plaza to families feeding the ducks to drawing thousands of people to its various free cultural and holiday events throughout the year.
Bradley Fair was Wichita’s first taste of a lifestyle center. In 1988, George Laham, who had started a career in real estate as a broker, wooed the owners of what was a 320-acre horse farm into giving him an opportunity to bring a vision for a mixed-use development to life. Laham initially purchased 3 acres of the property in 1988 and held 77 public meetings to convince city officials and the community that his master-planned development – a destination, outdoor shopping center that consolidated specialty stores and included nearby residences and an office park – would be a good thing. Bradley Fair opened in 1990, attracting its first national specialty retailer, Talbot’s, in 1991.
Bradley Fair’s name pays homage to the third-generation oilman Ed Bradley and his wife, Louise, who initially owned the property, while the nearby residential, commercial and medical developments named Wilson Estates is a tribute to the Wilsons who allowed Laham to fulfill his vision.
A Taste of Bradley Fair
From upscale to casual restaurants, a breakfast spot and some favorite “sweet spots,” Bradley Fair offers about a dozen dining experiences to accommodate just about any price point and palate.
Several of the restaurants take advantage of the impressive outdoor, Mediterranean-style ambiance at Bradley Fair, such as Newport Grill’s patio that overlooks the plaza and lake and YaYa’s EuroBistro garden-like patio. Bella Luna Cafe, which features Mediterranean specialties along with other options, expanded its patio space during its remodel to extend its seasonal use.
If you don’t like having a seat, grab a personalized mix of ice cream flavors or some delectable pieces of chocolate heaven to go from Marble Slab Creamery or Cocoa Dolce and wander the walkways to window-shop at both major national and local retailers.
Bradley Fair is also a great place to experience music, celebrations and other festivities throughout the year. Here are some upcoming events and annual events that will satisfy your cultural and entertainment cravings:
• Annual holiday tree-lighting and kickoff for free holiday, horse-drawn carriage rides, 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19. You won’t want to miss Santa’s visit, along with live reindeer and carolers, that lead up to the 6 p.m. lighting of the 35-foot tree in the plaza. The carriage rides – offered for the past 12 years – will continue from 6 to 10 p.m. every Friday and Saturday night through Dec. 23. About 6,000 people annually have made the carriage rides a unique holiday tradition.
• Jazz concert series. In June 2017, Bradley Fair will offer its 18th annual jazz summer concert series. The weekly Thursday night concerts throughout the month feature national and regional jazz musicians and draw about 3,000 to 5,000 listeners every week.
• Celebrate America. On the Thursday night closest to the Fourth of July, the jazz summer concert series concludes with a spectacular fireworks show to celebrate Independence Day. This has become one of Bradley Fair’s most popular events, with about 14,000 people coming out to see the show.
• Opera on the Lake. This past May, Wichita Grand Opera staged its 13th annual production, free to the community. This year’s performance of “Pirates of Penzance” incorporated a floating stage and the island within the lake.
• Autumn and Art. For the past seven years, Bradley Fair Parkway has shut down during a September weekend to be turned into an outdoor art gallery for Autumn and Art, put on by Wichita Festivals and sponsored in part by Bradley Fair. This year’s festival attracted 90 artists from 23 different states and included hands-on art activities for children. About 29,000 people attend the weekend festival.