B'WELL at BP
“We discussed remodeling for a long time. We knew it was needed, but it wasn’t until two years ago that we got really serious about it,” Jeremy said.
RENOVATING Construction began in November of 2017 and was completed this spring. The renovations, which expand to the east and south, more than double the square footage of the existing property. The new additions allow for a bigger convenience store offering a variety of fresh grocery items and includes a full-service coffee shop.
The renovation has completely changed the front of the building, allowing it to fit in with the current feel of Downtown Topeka.
“We don’t want it to look like a convenience store anymore,” Jeremy said. “We want it to look like it has been here for awhile, so we took some cues from the Dibble Building across the street.”
ONE-STOP SHOPPING Jeremy said the concept behind the remodel is to make it a convenient, one-stop shopping for people who live downtown. With all of the new apartments and lofts opening up as a result of a renewed investment in Downtown Topeka, those residents who already live in the area, as well as those planning to move in, want a more convenient way to buy groceries. B’Well Market aims to do just that.
“I have had a few people that live down here come and ask me what we will serve,” Jeremy said. “It will take us awhile to get the right product match down, but once we do I think we will be able to fulfill that niche.”
With the new renovations, B’Well Market has teamed up with Blue Jazz Java, a Topeka-based company, to create a traditional coffee shop feel.
“We were sitting discussing ideas one day, and it popped into my head that we would have enough room to actually do a full-on coffee shop,” Jeremy said. “It is another way for us to make it more convenient for people, make it a one-stop shop.”
Once renovations are complete, the coffee shop will offer a variety of traditional coffee drinks, including espressos, lattes and even Italian sodas. The one thing it won’t offer, however: seating. That is because it needs more room for groceries.
With the renovation, the B’Well Market truly will be a one-stop shop for their customers. Currently, the BP gas station is also a Greyhound bus stop and offers a bill pay service through Fidelity Express. Some of the renovations were directly related to these two services.
“We expanded the bathroom so there are two stalls in each bathroom, which is mainly because of the Greyhound bus stop. There will be a larger storage room and kitchen, a big walk-in freezer, and there will be a delivery door in the back now,” Jeremy said.
ALL IN THE FAMILY The gas station has been in the family for 40 years. It all began when James Barnwell, Austin’s father, acquired the business from Hook’s Auto in 1978. The Barnwells, at one time, leased and operated two gas stations in Topeka and one in Osage Beach, but now only own the one store in Topeka.
“My dad was an inventory specialist in the air force and was stationed at Forbes Field. He had some time after work and that’s how my dad got started in the business,” Austin said.
Austin grew up working for his father and took over business operations in 1988, but was still an employee for the next several years.
“I bought the whole ball of wax in about 2001,” Austin said. “I own the tanks, the pumps, the canopies, the land, the building and the whole inventory. That’s why we are able to expand.”
Jeremy repeated the tradition of son working for father in the family business. He began working at the store when he was only a freshman in high school. Jeremy moved to Topeka from Carbondale in 2002 and lives here today with his wife and three little girls. He works full time at the B’Well Market and hopes to one day take over the business from his father.
“I love Topeka,” Jeremy said. “It’s a big enough town; it’s not crazy like Kansas City or a big suburb. With everything that’s going on here, I think we are heading in the right direction.”