A hotly anticipated hybrid coffee shop — Made in KC Cafe — poured into downtown Kansas City Friday, marking the fourth store for a home-brewed retailer.
“This will be a living, breathing experiment,” said Tyler Enders, Made in KC co-founder. “Made in KC Cafe is a nice way for us to dip our toe into the world of coffee.”
The 2,300-square-foot space at 1114 Baltimore Ave. features a coffee bar in the front, a seating area surrounded by Kansas City-created retail, and room for event hosting. A taproom planned for the back of the store is expected to open in the spring, Enders said.
Made in KC Cafe’s big draw on opening day: the coffee.
“In our shops, we work with 10 different roasters,” Enders said, explaining the cafe’s plan for rotating featured brews. “Our espresso will be consistent; We’ll use Messenger. And then the cold brew, drip coffee and iced coffee will rotate. We’re going to try to match it up with our subscription service.”
The retailer offers a coffee subscription wherein customers get three, six or 12 months deliveries featuring a different roaster each month, he said.
“As part of an educational piece at the cafe, it’ll be like, ‘Oh, this month you’re drinking Oddly Correct. If you like this, you can order it. Or you can sign up for a subscription and try all of Kansas City’s great roasters,'” Enders said.
Made in KC also operates stores at Briarcliff, Corinth Mall and Prairiefire. A fifth location is set to open in the Crossroads in the spring.
(Photo gallery below.)
In the spirit of yes
Embedded on an increasingly busy block of Baltimore, Made in KC Cafe largely targets three potential customer bases: workers at local businesses, downtown residents — eight floors of one-bedroom and studio apartments are expected to open above the store in March — and those staying at nearby hotels.
“There are an amazing amount of hotels within a two-block radius,” Enders said. “If you’re a tourist who’s at Hotel Phillips or Hotel Indigo, you can just walk around a corner, try a local coffee, try a local beer, but then also buy your souvenirs all in the same place.”
Made in KC also aims to tap into members of its existing customer base, who Enders hopes will travel to the cafe on nights or weekends while exploring downtown, he said.
Such weekend visitors will be in store for a treat: an original concoction called Cafe au Oui.
“It’s coffee in the spirit of yes. It’s a cereal milk latte,” he said. “So, we’re using cereal and oatmeal and seeping that for two days, and then filtering it out, to make these loosely-called lattes. They’re delicious.”
The drink — which uses real breakfast cereal — comes from the repertoire of Ozzie Mendoza Diaz, Made in KC Cafe’s coffee director and part owner.
“It’s pink, blue, yellow,” Mendoza Diaz said. “I like whimsical stuff — weird, fun stuff.”
From behind the coffee bar Friday morning, he noted early response from the day’s grand opening had been reflected in a steady flow of customers.
“Succeeding in this neighborhood is going to require a unique approach,” he said. “We have target clientele who are going to support us in a lot of ways, but we also want to bring in people who are more artistic, drawing from other neighborhoods.”
The taproom and space in the store’s back will allow it to play host to unique kinds of events Kansas City hasn’t yet explored, Mendoza Diaz said.
“If you’re too avant-garde, then you seem like a fool. So we have to be really delicate in our approach, as well as inclusive,” he said. “It’s going to be a very solid, approachable cafe. As we evolve, I think people will really appreciate that process. Hopefully, it will stimulate others.”
Bringing the hustle
Mendoza Diaz plans to man the Made in KC Cafe coffee bar for the next three months, before returning to New Orleans where he’s been working the past two years in the restaurant industry, he said. He’ll maintain an active operational role afterward, he and Enders said.
“Ozzie has always been interested in coffee, cocktails and food — all of it — so we convinced him to come back to get us open,” Enders said.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Mendoza Diaz previously spent time in Kansas City and cut his teeth in the local coffee scene, he said.
“I hit a bit of a plateau in Kansas City, and I’m about accelerated learning, so moving to New Orleans was big part of that,” Mendoza Diaz said. “I’ve been able to climb and just learn a lot. So what we’re applying here, I’ve learned from the heightened perspective of being in New Orleans.”
His speciality: Improvising in the face of challenges — a lesson he learned well in the Crescent City.
“There was a point where I hit rock bottom down there,” Mendoza Diaz said. “I was unemployed for a couple months. Almost homeless. Finally got a job. I had no money to put gas in my car, so I was walking four or five mile every day, sometimes at 6 a.m. Walking home from work where you can get mugged really easily.”
“Hitting that point really brought back my hustle.”
In addition to his work with Made in KC Cafe, his time in New Orleans is split between a part-time at a cafe and a street food business that partners with different cafes or bars to build custom menus for special situations.
“I’m finally getting to cook my own food, and if I break even, then I’m happy,” he said. “It’s all about learning. My recipes are all tasting better than ever.”
Mendoza Diaz’s goal was to open a non-pop-up business by the time he turned 30, he said. His 28th birthday was Thursday.
“None of this has set in yet. I’m literally running entirely off of adrenaline right now,” he said. “It’s just surreal.”