A big beef is brewing over Wichita’s Bomber Burger, and the drama is playing out online

Bomber Burger’s longtime operator Chris Rickard died nearly three weeks ago, and now a messy fight is playing out online about the restaurant’s future.

On one side of the beef is Rickard’s widow, Shonda Woods, and her many online supporters. On the other is building owner Sherry Dymond and the man she has just leased the building to — former Slider Shak owner Craig Bauer.

The drama started last week, when Bauer says he tracked down Dymond about renting the 800-square-foot building at 4869 S. Clifton that she and her husband, the late Ronald Dymond, inherited from Bomber Burger’s original owner Grace, who was Ronald Dymond’s mother. Sherry Dymond says the business was built for Grace in 1952. Ron Dymond died in 2018.

Sherry Dymond says she hasn’t received a rent check from Chris Rickard since the pandemic started three years ago. She also says she’s way behind in back taxes, so much so that the building is set to be auctioned in July if she doesn’t pay them off.

She’s signed a lease-to-buy agreement with Bauer, and the back taxes are part of the selling price.

But on Saturday, Woods authored a post on the Bomber Burger Facebook page that has since spiraled and now is filled with accusations, backbiting and threats.

The post reads: “The Bomber Burger is officially closed. No one can open this as or in that name. Unfortunately I (Shonda/wife) have received several threatening messages from a Mr Bauer. I will add his texts and number below. Please do not be fooled by this fraudster. This is something no one wants to deal with on top of loosing your spouse but it is happening.”

Woods, in an interview on Sunday evening, said that the past week has been a nightmare. She said Bauer has been bombarding her with messages, and she just wants it to stop.

“This guy has been harassing me,” she said. “He says he has rented the place and intends on keeping the name. It’s a mess. I don’t know why anyone would do this.”

Bauer said that he was initially interested in reopening Bomber Burger because he recognized it as a Wichita institution and because he’s been “bored” since Slider Shak — which he opened at 4628 S. Seneca in April 2021 — closed in September.

“I just wanted to protect an iconic burger joint,” he said.

Rickard’s uncle, local real estate broker Larry Rickard, said that he and Chris had worked out a deal before he died for Larry to buy Bomber Burger building at the tax auction in July and let Chris pay him back over time. Larry Rickard, who described his nephew as a hard worker, also said Chris told him he’d been paying his $350-a-month rent on the space for years but that the checks had either never been cashed or had been repeatedly returned to him. Chris assumed the building owners had died, he said.

A new owner says he has signed a lease for Bomber Burger.
A new owner says he has signed a lease for Bomber Burger.

Chris Rickard had run the tiny restaurant ever since his father, Paul, died in 1997. Paul first took it over in 1985. Chris Rickard, 50, died on April 25, several weeks after his truck rolled into the path of a slow-moving train when he was on his way home from work. Doctor’s suspect a stroke, Woods said at the time.

Bauer said that after signing the lease with Sherry Dymond, he reached out to Woods asking for the keys to the place. That’s when things started to get ugly. She resisted, he said, and he sent messages informing her that he had taken over the lease and that she should not trespass.

On Saturday, he said, he changed the locks on the space. By the end of the day, though, someone busted into the building and took out equipment. They even took the original Bomber Burger sign that had been on the building for decades. Bauer said he intends to call the sheriff’s office on Monday and will do whatever he can legally to get what was taken back.

On Saturday, Woods posted Bauer’s name and phone number on the Facebook post, he said, and since then, he’s been getting threatening calls and hangups. Online supporters of Woods are advising her to register the Bomber Burger name so that Bauer can’t use it. They’re insisting they’ll never eat at the place again. They’re saying they’re sorry she’s having to deal with the drama so soon after losing her husband. Many are disparaging the Slider Shak and Bauer’s character.

Woods said that she first met Bauer when he attended a memorial for her husband at the restaurant, and that’s when he told her he’d bought the place. She blew it off, she said, because she didn’t believe it was true. She said she was reluctant to just turn keys over to a random stranger who showed up saying he’d purchased the building.

She said her husband was not behind on rent that she was aware of. She also questioned whether the person The Eagle spoke to was actually Sherry Dymond, suggesting it might have been an impersonator.

Dymond said that claim was absurd.

“According to them, I’m dead and they have tried to get in touch with me multiple times and haven’t been able to get in touch with me and that the last rent checks that he’d sent to me that were uncashed,” Dymond said. “But we haven’t received anything.”

The number Dymond called The Eagle from is listed on multiple people search engines online as belonging to Sherry or Ronald Dymond.

Bauer said he doesn’t plan to back down. After meeting Dymond, he said, he felt that she was being taken advantage of and he wanted to keep her from losing the building at auction.

His plan is to clean up Bomber Burger, reopen it, expand the customer base, start accepting credit cards as payment and possibly expand the hours. That may take a while, though, depending on what’s missing from the restaurant and how long it takes him to get it back, he said.

He’s also willing to sell the business to someone else.

“Slider Shak is my dream, so if someone comes to me and they want the property and they pay the back rent and the appraised value of the property, they can have it,” he said.

He doesn’t feel bad about going after the business so soon after Chris Rickard’s death, though, he said. Although he’s sad Rickard passed away, he says he was offended by the politically incorrect persona Rickard displayed in the restaurant. Now, after everything that’s transpired in the last 24 hours, Bauer said, there’s no way he’s backing down.

“I’m ready,” he said. “I’m ready to dig in the heels.”

Woods, meanwhile, said she just wants to be left alone. Her husband’s death is still fresh, she said through tears, and the situation feels like a nightmare.

At the very least, she said, she wishes any new owner would use a name other than “Bomber Burger,” which over the last few decades has become synonymous with Chris Rickard.

“I don’t want anyone trying to ride my husband’s coattails,” she said.