Owner plans to fix building

The building that housed Westco furniture will be restored, its owner says, after it collapsed during an 8-inch downpour on Sept. 4.

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September 23, 2021 - 10:05 AM

The Iola Westco store received signifiant damage during a storm on Sept. 4. Photo by Big Square Media

The building housing Westco furniture on North State Street will be restored, according to Tom Benton, a real estate developer and rancher out of Grand Junction, Colo.

Benton owns the strip mall that includes the furniture store. Weigand-Omega of Wichita, a property management company, oversees its  upkeep.

“Engineers and contractors are evaluating what all needs to be done,” said Benton in a telephone conversation Wednesday morning.

An 8-inch downpour on Sept. 4 caused the front half of the store to cave in.

“I’m not a structural engineer, but obviously, it was too much for the roof to hold,” Benton said. 

Stores to the north and south also suffered water seepage in their floors, Benton said, but no structural damage.

Benton has owned the strip mall since 2003. 

The shopping plaza is the former site of Pet Milk Company, which after 45 years closed in 1968 and was torn down in 1972 to make way for construction of a shopping plaza. M.K. Gentry & Co. of Wichita was the developer. Its first tenants were TG&Y and Foodtown grocery.

Benton said he hopes Westco retains its presence there, saying that the site of the former Country Mart farther to the south is an option while the restoration is in progress.

The Iola Westco store received signifiant damage during a storm on Sept. 4. Photo by Big Square Media
Photos by Big Square Media
Photos by Big Square Media
Photos by Big Square Media
Photos by Big Square Media
Photos by Big Square Media
6 photos

Work to clean out the old grocery store began today.

Benton said Iola’s “diversified economy and active economic development efforts,” make it a good place to invest.

“Strong communities like Iola are a good place to do business,” he said. “I appreciate all the help people have given us” in the aftermath of the storm.

Benton said his great-grandfather had ties to the region through a ranching enterprise. 

He also owns lots to the north of the strip mall as well as Eastgate Lofts, the apartments to the north of G&W Foods.

Watch drone footage of the damaged building here.

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