Marshall Murdock Award for Business, sponsored by the Wichita Eagle, is named for Marshall Murdock, founder of the Eagle in 1872. The award is given to an area business that is making a positive impact by addressing a major community challenge or by implementing ideas, which enhance opportunities for employees through creativity and innovation. This year’s recipient, Revolutsia, is a retail, restaurant and office space using an established building and shipping containers to create an engaging atmosphere that creates a sense of belonging and community.
Sara Bagby, Watermark Books and Cafe earn accolades
Previously published in the Wichita Eagle
Article by Amy Geiszler-Jones
Photo by Jaime Green, The Wichita Eagle
While a love of books was instilled early in Sarah Bagby, being a business owner wasn’t.
“I grew up in a house of readers,” said Bagby, who owns Watermark Books and Cafe. “I didn’t grow up in a family of entrepreneurs, so the reading part was natural, the ownership wasn’t.”
While it wasn’t a natural skill, Bagby has become very successful at running an independent bookstore. Last year, Watermark Books and Cafe was named the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year among businesses with 25 or fewer employees. This year, it’s among the five nominees for the national Bookstore of the Year honor bestowed by Publishers Weekly. The winner will be named in March.
Her success can be attributed to several things: her passion for Wichita, literature and authors; her forwardthinking and strategic planning that’s helped her thrive in a business pressured by national chains, Amazon and electronic books; her staff of likeminded book lovers; and readers in the Wichita community.
Bagby started working part time for the independent bookstore in 1981 and by the mid-1990s, she was the store’s owner.
The store has become much more than a bricksand-mortar independent bookstore.
“It’s a place where people can go and find community,” said Bagby. And she likes that.
About a dozen book clubs meet monthly at Watermark, Bagby said, and local groups often use one of two basement meeting spaces – one decorated with a mural of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and the other featuring authors’ signatures.
She and her staff coordinate about 60 events and book signings, ranging from local authors to national favorites such as John Grisham, David Sedaris and Elizabeth Gilbert. Watermark has become known for not only bringing in big-name authors, but helping put emerging authors on the map. Most of the events are held at Watermark; events with a larger draw are held at other venues.
“I have this dream that every time we host a John Grisham or Liane Moriarty, all the hundreds of readers in attendance go home and read the same book,” said Bagby.
Watermark collaborates with other organizations to spread literacy and produce more readers. Working with the Wichita Community Foundation, Watermark helps send authors to Title I elementary schools – which have a high percentage of students from low-income families – and distributes free books. It also partners with The Opportunity Project to provide about 800 hardcover books for free to kids.
A previous board member of the American Booksellers Association, Bagby is starting a term on the Book Industry Charitable Foundation board that provides funds to bookstore colleagues experiencing unexpected financial hardships because of emergency or medical circumstances.
To be awarded to an area business that is making a positive impact on our community by pioneering efforts to address a major community challenge or by implementing ideas which enhance opportunities for employees and positively impact our community, through the creativity and innovation employed.
Beard-building Lance Minor also growing his business
Lance Minor came to know himself well while serving 21 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He knew he loved the excitement of active duty, loved leading younger Marines. When he retired and returned to his native Wichita in 2012, Minor wondered how he’d find that same kind of challenge.
The answer was starting a microbrewery – Aero Plains Brewing – with a little broader purpose than just cranking out good beer. “By making and serving beer and connecting with the people of Wichita, Aero Plains has allowed me to continue to serve something greater than myself,” Minor, CEO of Aero Plains, said.
Aero Plains does serve very good beer, by the way. It was named “Best Kansas Brewery” at the 2017 Midwest Beerfest. Minor is the recipient of the 2018 Murdock Award for Business.
Minor and co-founders Ryan Waite and Brent Miller opened Aero Plains in October 2016. Other than a little confusion over its location – 117 N. Handley, tucked behind Bicycle X-Change in the Delano neighborhood – the reception has been everything they hoped for. Minor says his “old soul” wife, Mary, and Aero Plains’ “beer ambassador,” Mike Snider, have also made key contributions.
Minor created the original recipes for Aero Plains’ beer. Minor and his partners have also listened to input from customers who want more variety, recently hiring a new head brewer, Troy Bervig. They’re working with a local branding agency, Gardner Design, to improve their labels and recently purchased equipment that will allow them to switch from bottles to cans. That, in turn, will allow them to release new beers more often.
Besides the Marines, Minor says another experience profoundly affected his life today. In 2014, just as he was preparing to launch Aero Plains, he contracted swine flu and spent seven weeks in a coma. “I realized that whatever connections I made with people, whether long-lasting or fleeting, I wanted to make those connections positive. Hold the door for people, help them with their groceries, stop and help someone change a tire, buy a round of beer for strangers.”
Aero Plains has raised money for the Mental Health Association, Hands of Hope, Wichita’s Littlest Heroes and women’s advocacy groups. Minor sits on the board of the Field of Brews fundraiser for Starkey, Inc. He and Aero Plains are enthusiastic participants in the Delano Fall Fair and other neighborhood events.
His goal for 2018, besides growing Aero Plains: grow his beard, although not for purposes of appearance. Minor has entered Aero Plains in the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation head shaving event that raises money for childhood cancer research. While others shave their heads, Minor said, “I’m growing out my beard from September 2017 to April 2018 – because I can’t grow hair on top of my head.”
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The Murdock Award for Business, named for Wichita Eagle founder Victor Murdock, is for an area business making a positive impact by pioneering efforts to address a major community challenge or by implementing ideas which enhance opportunities for employees and impact our community through creativity and innovation. Continue reading “Zinta Inspired Language – 2017 Murdock Award”