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6 things you probably don’t know about downtown Lawrence

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You might spend everyday in downtown Lawrence shopping, snacking and meandering, but how well do you really know some of these businesses?

1. Weaver’s is actually older than national retail industry leader Macy’s

Opening in 1857, Weaver’s opening date beats “world’s largest store” Macy’s by six months. In fact, it’s one of the oldest independent department stores in the U.S., celebrating its 158th anniversary this year, said Brady Flannery, Weaver’s vice president. “We’re pretty sure it’s the oldest department store west of the Mississippi river,” Flannery added. “There is only one other store in Oxford, Mississippi that beats us.”

2. The cash register at Ernst & Son Hardware is likely 123 years old

The same used cash register Rod Ernst’s grandfather brought into the hardware store in 1908, three years after it opened, is the same one they use today. The date on the machine says 1892, Ernst said. Why fix something that isn’t broken, right?

3. Waxman Candles is the result of a $5 candle-making kit

Once Bob Werts, owner of Waxman Candles, got his hands on a mail-order, DIY candle-making kit for $4.95, he realized a true love for the art—and then dropped out of the University of Kansas to make his dreams come true. At age 21, Werts opened this business 600-block store (which also served as his home for a few months).

4. Footprints first opened as a bike store

In the 1870s, long before Mick Ranney opened it as a bicycle shop, Footprints was a grocery store. When Ranney added Birkenstock sandals to the two-wheeled inventory, the response was strong enough that the entire store would transform into a Birkenstock concept store. Now offering many other shoes brands, Footprints has lost its wheels and is now exclusively about the trek on foot.

5. And shoe store owner Mick Ranney is a serious silent film buff

Ranney puts on a Silent Film Festival at the Lawrence Arts Center complete with a live orchestra to accompany cinema’s timeless classics. He recreates the theatrical setting you’d find if you were to attend a film screening in the ’20s.

6. You can find vegetarian haggis.

If that’s something that intrigues your taste buds, you’re in luck. Brits carries both meat and vegetarian haggis, giving everyone an opportunity to partake. Like the traditional mixture of sheep bits (lungs, liver and brains), the lentil-based vegetarian option is mixed with oats, onions and spices to mimic the same flavors. “Everyone likes to make it gross, but it’s like a sausage,” said British food storeowner Sally Helm. Brits also stocks “normal things,” Helm added, like English chocolates, cookies (biscuits), tea and jams.

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