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Connie Hamilton sells Connie's Cookies, which is moving east and changing to Connie's Cookies Bakery Cafe

Friday, January 4 2013 12:00 AM

Connie Hamilton sells Connie’s Cookies, which is moving east and changing to Connie’s Cookies Bakery Cafe

By Carrie Rengers

The Wichita Eagle

WICHITA — Twenty four years after opening Connie’s CookiesConnie Hamilton has sold the business, but she’s not leaving.

That’s because she’s sold it to her son, Rob Smith, and his wife, Tanya.

“Everybody asks me if I’m really sad about that, and I’m not,” Hamilton says. “I get to go back to doing what I like.”

That’s making cookies instead of handling paperwork.

“I’m still going to be every bit as present as I’ve ever been.”

Except that won’t be in the Sweetbriar shopping center at 21st and Amidon.

The Smiths and Hamilton decided to move the shop to Reed’s Cove Plaza on East 21st Street just east of 127th Street where Knolla’s Pizza used to be.

“We have no visibility over here, and things have changed,” Hamilton says of the current location. “When we first moved in here, we didn’t need visibility.”

Though holiday sales still are strong, Hamilton says the rest of the year has become more of a challenge.

“Nowadays, everybody is opening a bakery,” she says. She says many bakers operate out of their homes.

“It has really, really eaten into our everyday sales,” she says. “We had to look at what’s wrong, and we decided what was wrong was where we were located.”

She and the Smiths initially only considered moving downtown or to Delano.

“We had every intention of staying central,” Hamilton says.

Then Craig Simon of Landmark Commercial Real Estate, who handled the deal for the Reed’s Cove space, suggested that center.

Reed’s Cove owner Fred Ortiz, who also owns College Hill Cleaners, had been wanting a bakery with some seating for diners who want coffee and a small bite to eat.

“The neighborhood’s been asking for that,” Ortiz says. He says he thought Connie’s “would be a perfect fit for the neighborhood.”

Hamilton and the Smiths didn’t want to go to the far east side, but the more they considered it, the more they liked it.

“It’s like a boom town now,” Hamilton says of the area.

“It’s an incredible neighborhood,” Ortiz says. He says the area “is just getting ready to explode.”

He says neighbors also have told him they’d like some Chinese fast food.

“If you need anything, you’ve got to go to basically Rock Road or into Andover,” he says.

Ortiz has two 1,400-square-foot spaces left in the 9,800-square-foot center, which also is home to Edward Jones, College Hill Cleaners andBeliza Nails & Spa.

“It’s unbelievable how busy they are,” Ortiz says of the nail business.

Connie’s currently doesn’t have dine-in space at its west store, but the new space will seat about 18. The business will be renamed Connie’s Cookies Bakery Cafe when it opens later this month.

The store also will have a drive-through window.

If the new concept does well, Hamilton says, “Who knows, then we can put the same type of concept on the west side. That would be the ideal situation right there.”

Rob Smith, who also owns Rob’s Transmission, and his wife – and even their children – have been tied to the business for a long time.

“Tanya has been the manager of the bakery here for the last five years, so she’s a presence that most of the customers are familiar with,” Hamilton says.

“It’s just always been in the plans to keep it in the family,” Rob Smith says. “We want to make it bigger and better than it is now.”

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