TOPEKA (KSNT) – The past several years have not been kind to some Topeka stores, restaurants and bars that have closed their doors for good in the Capital City.
KSNT 27 News gathered the following list of businesses that have said goodbye to Topeka in recent years. Whether forced to close due to economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, financial woes or other reasons, here are some iconic Topeka businesses that have passed into the pages of history.
1. Wolfe’s Camera Shop
This downtown Topeka camera shop closed up permanently in the summer of 2021 after serving locals for nearly 100 years. Rumors of the shop’s impending closure began spreading in January that year, with the CEO, Mike Worswick, telling KSNT 27 News he intended to sell the building. Worswick passed away just 10 days after the store closed.
2. The Lazy Toad
Put down as a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lazy Toad’s owner, Byron Howell, announced on social media he would be closing the restaurant and sports bar in March, 2022. Citing “2 years of difficulty,” Howell bid fans farewell before closing the bar’s location in the southwest Topeka.
3. Great Wall
This Chinese food restaurant situated near Washburn University announced it would be closing early in 2022. The building is currently owned by Boost Mobile.
4. Pepe and Chela’s
First opened in 1986 by the Avila family, this Mexican restaurant in the downtown area served Topekans food for 31 years before it was closed and torn down. Its location is marked today by an empty lot.
5. La Siesta Restaurant
Getting its start in 1977, the restaurant La Siesta was founded in the Oakland neighborhood. While the restaurant is now closed, the family-owned business helped launch the Mama Lupe’s brand and Casa Del Sabor which carry on Mama Lupe’s traditional recipes. The descendants and relatives of Mama Lupe continue to sell their recipes across the state.
6. Boss Hawg’s BBQ and Pigskin’s Sports Bar
7. Café Holliday
Closing up in central Topeka in 2019 after 23 years of business, Café Holliday owners Jessie and Elizabeth Barajas said they decided to close as their family was moving out of state. La Casita Café later established a second location here.
8. Grover’s Smokehouse
Having come close to closing for good in 2013, Grover’s Smokehouse was ultimately closed permanently just two years later. The mom and pop restaurant had been in business for around 40 years in Topeka when it shut down. The location now holds a Sonic fast-food restaurant.
9. McFarland’s Restaurant
The owners of McFarland’s said they’d be closing their doors after more than 80 years of business in Topeka’s Gage shopping center. Passed down through several generations, the closing of this restaurant prompted family and staff to take one last look at the place before it closed forever.
10. NOTO Burrito
Formerly found in the North Topeka Arts District (NOTO), owner Jenny Torrence announced on social media in April, 2020 that the business would be closing up after eight years. The reason for closing was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
11. Stutzman Leather Shoppe
This shop’s time in NOTO was forced to come to an end due to impacts from both the pandemic and co-owner Steve Stutzman’s health issues. Members of the community rallied to help Stutzman recover by raising money to cover medical expenses following the announcement the shop would close.
12. White Lakes Mall
White Lakes Mall, once a hub of activity in south Topeka, received the green light to be demolished in 2021. Demolition began in the spring of 2022 with the property later being sold to the Mainline Development Group in early 2023. A fire in 2020 helped push city leaders to make greater efforts to remove the aging building. Topekans shared their memories of the mall in its glory days with 27 News.
13. The Landing Grille & Bar
This southeast Topeka sports bar closed unexpectedly in March, 2021 due to pandemic-related issues. The closure later became permanent, with the location now claimed by the Thunderbirds Grille.
14. Lunatix Comix
This local comic book store was forced to close after the tragic death of its owner, Ryan Rinehart, in 2022. The shop closed its doors for the last time just a few years after it opened in November, 2019.
15. Roach Hardware
This north Topeka hardware store closed unexpectedly in February, 2018. Employees were reportedly surprised by the sudden closure after being originally told the store would be closing in early April that year. The property is now home to Barrel House Liquor.
16. Briman’s Leading Jewelers
Sitting at the corner of southeast 8th Street and south Kansas Avenue was Briman’s Leading Jewelers, a staple of the downtown area for more than 80 years. A family member of the owners told 27 News the place would be closing in 2020. Co-owner Rob Briman was added to the 2019 Topeka Business Hall of Fame Laureates.
17. Lazio’s Coffee Bar and Roasterie
Lazio’s announced it would be permanently closing its doors in a social media post in 2020. The west Topeka coffee shop became another casualty during the pandemic and closed shortly after the chain coffee shop PT’s closed its location in College Hill.
18. Carlos O’Kelly’s
A district manager for Carlos O’Kelly’s made the announcement the Topeka location for Carlos O’Kelly’s would be closing in 2020 due to development moving away from the southeast side of town. The restaurant had been in the Capital City for 36 years when it finally closed. The building was sold in 2022, later becoming the site for an El Ranchito restaurant.
19. The Tipsy Carrot
Focused on helping its customers find the right balance between healthy eats and sweet treats, this NOTO business got its start in 2019 selling ice cream, juices and açaí bowls. It later shared the sad news it would be closing for good in April 2020 as yet another pandemic-related loss.
20. College Hill Pizza Pub
This build-your-own pizza restaurant shut down in December 2019 after eight years in the Capital City. A Fat Shack now sits where the Pizza Pub used to be.
21. Cousin’s Tavern
After more than 40 years of business and four generations of family-owned business, Cousin’s tavern closed forever in 2017 in downtown Topeka. The bar was later demolished three years later.
22. 45th Street Bar
In its final days, this bar had a controversial reputation in south Topeka. City leaders discussed allowing the business to remain open in light of reports of violent crime in the area while members of the community raised their voices and created a petition to close the business.
23. Wild Horse Saloon
This Topeka country bar announced it would be closing after 21 years in early 2023. Efforts were made to prevent the bar from closing with a new owner stepping in to reopen the place a couple months later. However, this was temporary as the saloon was finally closed later in the year and demolished to make way for a Chick-Fil-A and Whataburger.
24. Gardner’s Flooring America
Open since 1959, this business said it would be closing in August, 2016. The owners of the store released a letter with Topekans sharing the “mixed emotions” that came alongside the closing and that the building was sold. The location is now home to the industrial painting contractor Gray & Company.
25. Porubsky’s Deli
A classic Topeka restaurant located in the Little Russia neighborhood, Porubsky’s closed in April, 2022. However, the business would be revived under the name Little Russia Chili Parlor not long after Porubsky’s closed.