Update: Due to late change, Johnny B’s will not be open Saturday, Dec. 23, as originally published on Johnny B’s social and reported by the Sun-Times. The restaurant closed for good on Friday night.
Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Dec. 21 print edition of the Haysville Sun-Times. To get stories like this sooner, subscribe for home delivery. Call 316-540-0500.
By Sam Jack
After struggling for over a year to keep it open, owner Willie Lusk announced that Johnny B’s Hamburger Heaven will close at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 23.
For whatever reason, and despite positive feedback from customers, Johnny B’s simply has not had enough business to keep it going, Lusk said.
“The realization I’ve had to come to is, there’s three other burger places in town, and I just can’t get a big enough piece of the pie to keep it going. I don’t have the answer to why it didn’t work out,” he said.
Johnny B’s has drawn strongly from the surrounding area, Lusk said, but has seen less business from Haysville residents.
“I drive down from Hoover Street to come in, and I bring suppliers that I work with, because I work in the aircraft industry,” Jackie McColpin, a customer, said last week. “It’ll be disappointing when I have suppliers come in from out of town and can’t bring them here anymore. For homestyle hamburgers, it’s really the only place around in south Wichita, outside of chain restaurants.”
A couple months ago, Lusk had an opportunity to move Johnny B’s to a location in Wichita, but he decided not to do so. There would have been no guarantee it would have worked out, and, because his lease on his Haysville location runs through September 2018, he would have been paying double rent.
Besides, the Lusk family’s eight children attend Haysville schools, and the family wants to remain here.
Next month, Lusk is hoping to launch a Mexican fast food restaurant in the current Johnny B’s location. He needs to do well in the remaining days of Johnny B’s, or it will not be financially possible for him to give that a try.
“I worked with Taco Tico as my first general manager job,” Lusk said. “We can come very close to offering something like that here in town. There are two other Mexican places here in town, but one is a full-service restaurant, and the other is what I call ‘authentic Mexican.’ This would be a different niche. We would be going for speed and price point this time. With Johnny B’s, the biggest complaint I hear is about price point; people feel like we’re too expensive.”