It was a wild year for business in the Franklin County area in 2018. There were new businesses cropping up and old ones closing up shop. And some celebrating milestones.

Here is a synopsis of some of the business goings and comings during the year:

Arby’s comes to fruition

It was announced in March Arby’s was coming to Ottawa. Representatives of U.S. Beef, the parent company for Arby’s and the developer of the new Holiday Inn Express and Suites agreed to an access lane that will benefit the restaurant, The Herald reported in early March.

James Oltman, former Franklin County Development Council (FCDC) executive director, said he had been working with them for almost a year and a half and it appeared everything should be resolved. A few problems got in the way of the building and pushed back the official opening of the restaurant to spring of 2019. The restaurant officially broke ground in November and began the building phase.

Andy Benning, director of real estate and development for US Beef — the developers of the project, said he was excited to get started.

“We’ve been working on coming here for a long time to be real honest with you,” Benning said. “We looked at some locations in other parts of town but nothing worked out. I always wanted to be out there where Andy’s Siding is and now that the Holiday Inn is out here we started working with them and we are excited to be here.”

Benning said the restaurant could employ up to 50 people with all of the part-time positions. Hiring will begin closer to the anticipated opening, he said.

“What a great day this is to have this facility here,” Mayor Mike Skidmore said. “Arby’s is one of the best places, always consistent and never a bad meal. It’s good not only for people of Ottawa but for passers by, this will be a great stop for them as well. I’m excited and I know the town is excited. Today it’s the shovels and dirt but soon it will be the meats.”

New hospital affiliation

It was announced in late August that Ransom Memorial Health is looking to affiliate with Adventist Health System, the parent company of Shawnee Mission Health.

Matt Heyn, President/CEO of Ransom Memorial Health, announced the RMH board of trustees signed a letter of intent to affiliate with AHS, but there is a 120-day due diligence period to give each party time to ensure the affiliation is in their best interest. If the agreement is approved, RMH becomes part of the AHS family in early 2019.

AHS, headquartered in Florida, is a connected network of care with nearly 50 hospital campuses and hundreds of care sites in almost a dozen states. The Mid-America region consists of providers in Wisconsin and Kansas, including Shawnee Mission Health.

“As a community hospital, it is essential that we unite with another community-focused organization to continue providing remarkable care to Franklin County and the surrounding areas,” Heyn said. “We’ve partnered with Shawnee Mission Health for the last few years regionally, and their commitment to quality with the support and resources of a national health system is what will allow us to continue improving the health of our communities.”

Heyn reiterated that RMH, 1301 S. Main St., Ottawa, was not being sold to another healthcare organization.

“We want to remain majority local control,” Heyn said. “The county sales tax will be left in control with the RMH board. This was part of the deal. We are forcing all those dollars to be reinvested in this community.”

Janet Peters, RMH board president, said the partnership will benefit the communities and patients we jointly serve and better position us for the future.

“The board is positioning this organization to flourish and provide cutting edge technology, physician resources, programic gaps, infrastructure that we otherwise could not provide as a completely independent hospital. We need the efficiencies of a health system,” Heyn said.

COF Celebrates 50th

One of the county’s top institutions reached a half of a century old. COF Training Services Inc. celebrated its milestone in August with a day-long celebration in Forest Park. The organization cares for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

COF survived many changes throughout its existance. COF’s work and mission evolved through the past 50 years, Chris Patton, COF CEO said.

“It is amazing,” Patton said. “Nothing is the same. The biggest key to success is you have to be willing to adapt to changes. It takes perseverance, dedication, and it never lets up. COF never shuts down. It is a continuous operation, 24 hours a day, now for 50 years. You can’t turn off the lights or shut it down. It is going all the time.”

Patton said COF staff, employees and past employees are part of the success story.

“It gets in their blood,” he said. “You don’t lose your dedication to them, even if you retire and move on. You still care. You are so invested in these people’s lives and helping them to succeed. It becomes part of who you are. That is the crux of COF.”

Sunflower Plaza reaches 40

The Sunflower Plaza Tower, 701 S. Poplar St., Ottawa, opened in 1978 for independent seniors that are 62 and older and is still going strong 40 years later. The administration and residents celebrated its 40th year in November.

Cindy McCullough, property manager, said the residents are a close knit group.

“They really do feel like family,” McCullough said. “They refer to themselves as family. So many of them grew up together and knew each other their whole lives.

The building has 60 one-bedroom apartments and is always at capacity.

“We have a really good reputation,” McCullough said. “I keep a constant wait list. People call me daily to see where they are at on the list. My biggest advertising has been word of mouth.”

McCullough said many of the residents had family members live there.

“It has turned into this generational thing,” she said. “It is really cool. They knew one day they would live here.”

Changes in downtown

Two of Ottawa’s downtown business anchors called it quits in 2018. Ottawa’s branch of Brown’s Shoe Fit closed its store in September after nearly 50 years in downtown Ottawa. The business has been in Ottawa since 1970.

Steve Ruzek, president of Brown’s Shoe Fit Company, said it was not an easy decision to close.

“In small communities, economics and the ability to put bodies in the store are the biggest factors,” Ruzek said. “You hate to see it, but we have to position ourselves in communities where there is a long term outlook for success. That is something we are going through with all of our stores right now, and evaluating every situation and making decisions that will allow us to be around 100 years from now, not just 10 years from now.”

Prairie Rose Gifts and Tuxedo Rental shut its doors this past weekend after the owner retired.

“It’s just time to retire,” Rose Rice said of her decision. “I’ll miss going out to shop, and that sort of thing. We’ve made lots and lots of friends through the business over the years. It’s been good.”

Rice won’t be leaving the Ottawa business scene completely.

“I’m still going to do tuxedos — I’m going to do them at Cherry Blossom Boutique,” she said adding the business is located at 2232 S. King St. “I like doing the tuxes — it’s fun.”

New owners for dealership

Ottawa Chrylser Jeep Dodge Ram is now Victory Chrysler Dodge Jeep of Ottawa after new owners took over ownership in October.

Victory CDJR is part of Premiere Auto Group based in New Orleans and it currently owns five dealerships in Kansas City. Kallan LaForge, general manager, said the dealership will have a small-town feel with the advantages of a big-city dealership.

With five Kansas City dealerships to work with, LaForge said the Ottawa store will be able to offer better prices and options than ever before. He said in the past, the Kansas City dealership would have people drive from this area for better prices and service. Now, he said, they can direct them to the Ottawa store and know that the right people are in place to help them.

“Ultimately we want to take care of customers, service cars and sell cars and this just makes it easier,” he said. “A store that size in Kansas City may have more lenders signed up or a little more buying power than maybe a smaller store so we will be able to piggy-back off of them.”

Spa relocation

Exclusive Salon and Day Spa LLC, formerly Exclusive 3rd Street Spa, moved its business to 119 S. Main St., Ottawa, from Third Street in November.

“It’s a huge move, but we’re really excited about it,” said Amy Richardson, Exclusive co-owner and original founder of Exclusive 3rd Street Spa. Richardson banded together fellow co-owners Kasie Luckert and Brooke Beets to move the business to Main Street.

“So, we decided to move from Third Street and create this new spa, and expand with the tanning beds — it’s probably three times the space we had at the other place,” Richardson said. “I met with everybody that works for me and asked them, ‘What do you think of this [move]? Is this something that you’d be interested in?” And everyone was just as excited as we were. So we continue to keep the exclusive family together in this space, now with more opportunity to grow.”

Here are some other business happenings during the year:

• McDonald’s closed its inside dining while remodeling the restaurant. The inside dining re-opened in mid-summer with ramped seating and an upgrade to its dining experience, the owner said.

• The East Central Kansas Area Agency on Aging (ECKAAA) took over as the new provider for the senior congregate and home-delivered nutrition program on Oct. 1. The program serves Anderson, Coffey, Franklin, Linn, Miami and Osage Counties. Mid-America Nutrition Program had been the provider for many decades.

• Cosentino’s Price Chopper opened a new convenience store this fall in the parking lot of the grocery store.

• Dodd’s Monuments is under new ownership. This fall the business was bought by Shawn Miller, who owns Reeble Monuments in Emporia and Iola.

• Green Environmental Services (GES), a solid waste disposal company based in southeast Kansas, purchased Ottawa Sanitation, 211 W. Wilson St., Ottawa.

• SERC Physical Therapy opened at 1410 S. Main St., Ottawa.

• Crabtree & Brown along with Phoenix Natural Wellness CBD opened cannabidiol (CBD) stores.