A new Made in Kansas City retail concept on the Country Club Plaza will offer local makers and food vendors space to grow their product lines, as well as a prominent showcase in one the city’s busiest shopping destinations, said Made in KC co-founder Tyler Enders.
“The whole goal of this — which we feel is right within our mission statement — is that by aggregating our resources and taking on this massive 8,000-square-foot lease, we’re able to attain it at price per square foot that we can then deliver to smaller companies who would’ve never been able to contemplate being on the Plaza,” Enders said.
The space at 306 W. 47th St. — formerly an American Eagle store, but most recently a Russell Stover popup location — is expected to open this summer, he said. Branded as Made in Kansas City Marketplace, the store will mix retail market and food hall concepts, Enders said, though the space will not be restaurant style.
“All the food that we’re offering works in-between meals. It’s desserts, small bites, things you could get before dinner reservations or after you’ve finished dinner,” he said.
Four food concepts slated for the marketplace include a coffee shop — operated by Made in KC and mirroring the operation at its downtown hybrid retail space — as well as Seven Swans Crêperie, an ice cream vendor and a bubble tea vendor, Enders said.
A taproom serving all-local beer, wine and spirits also is planned with booth and table seating offering about 72 places for patrons to sit, he said.
“The hope is that we’ll be open early morning to serve the coffee customer, but then also later in the evening — not super late — serving drinks,” Enders said.
The marketplace’s retail landscape is expected to feature a balance of permanent vendors — such as Family Tree Nursery, Ampersand Design Studio, SewKC, Kansas City Canning Co., Made Urban Apparel, Flint and Field, and Christopher Elbow Chocolates — and seasonal vendors that will be spotlighted on a three-month rotation, he said.
“All in all, we’ll have more than 20 different brands represented with their own shop within a shop,” Enders said.
A perfect home
The marketplace concept on the Plaza gives Made in KC the ability to expand its own sales capacity, as well as pushing makers to further develop their own product offerings to fill the space, Enders said. For every MADE Urban Apparel with a full line-up of existing merchandise, there are countless others with limited offerings that simply need a stepping stone to get them to the next level, he said.
Ampersand is a prime example, Enders noted.
Its primary business is licensing designs to manufacturers and other companies, he said, but the Plaza retail opportunity will be a catalyst to not only build out a physical presence for the Kansas City-based designs, but to expand their Ampersand-branded content.
While the company already produces T-shirts, patches and enamel pins, the Made in Kansas City Marketplace will allow them to delve into textiles, tote bags, zipper pouches and fabric pillows, said founders Carrie Kiefer and Morgan Georgie.
“We’re trying not to get in over our heads right from the start, but we have more planned too,” Georgie said, noting stationary and greeting cards as possible future growth areas for Ampersand.
The designer duo attended the University of Kansas together before taking jobs at Hallmark, they said.
“That’s when we really learned to do repeating patterns and honed our illustration and trend skills,” Kiefer said. “That’s also when we got into the world of textiles, so it feels very natural now for us to bring those into the mix a little more.”
Ampersand began in 2010, about the same time both women left Hallmark to begin building their families, they said. Expanding now feels like an organic move for Ampersand, Kiefer added.
“We’d talked about it and talked about it, and it was kind of one of those things that was just on our to-do list for probably years,” she said. “The Made in Kansas City store opening deadline is giving us a reason to finally make it happen. These are things that we’ve sketched and dreamt about, but we didn’t have the perfect home for those ideas.”
Designed to scale
Landing a space on the Plaza typically requires a pricey, three-year lease, Enders said. The Made in KC concept dramatically reduces that risk of entry, especially for smaller makers, he said.
“Hopefully no one completely loses their shirt with just a three-month commitment. And what’s nice is that they’re not tying up their time,” Enders said, noting Made in KC staff will maintain non-food spaces and sell products, though vendors are responsible for merchandising their own areas.
With a trade show in New York looming and a busy sales season underway, Ampersand wouldn’t otherwise be in a position to take on a brick-and-mortar location, Georgie said.
“It would be hard for us with everything else to have our own retail shop where we’re truly manning it, so it’s the perfect in-between,” she said. “We don’t have all the burden of a retail store, but we can test the waters with it.”
Makers’ individual spaces will reflect the brands’ own styles, Enders said. Ampersand’s display, for example, likely will highlight bright and colorful patterns, while MADE Urban Apparel is expected to feature its characteristic monochromatic color scheme.
“Our hope is that each one looks completely different,” Enders said.
Georgie and Kiefer would’ve been more skeptical of the concept if it wasn’t coming from the leadership team at Made in KC, which includes Enders, co-founder Thomas McIntyre and co-owner Keith Bradley, they said.
“They’re just really brilliant businessmen, and innovators as well. That doesn’t always go hand in hand,” Kiefer said. “They have the ideas and the ability to follow through.”
The announcement of Made in KC’s coming Plaza store comes only about a month after it opened a retail location in the Crossroads — on the ground floor beneath the company’s new headquarters — and less than five months since debuting its Made in KC Cafe concept downtown. A pop-up space inside Lead Bank also is showcasing the brand.
The company’s newest ventures join locations at Briarcliff, Corinth Mall and Prairie Fire, as well as within area Hallmark stores. Made in Kansas City Marketplace will serve as a showpiece, Enders said, providing a unique link between the brand, hometown shoppers and visitors.
“Our existing retail shops still provide a really good service and value to people in those neighborhoods,” he said. “The marketplace is more of a perusing and social experience. … So if you’re with your grandparents, they can go look at ceramics while you check out leather goods and someone else goes to get ice cream. There’s really a lot to see — high amounts of stimulation. We’ve encouraged every single vendor to really own their space with the visuals and aesthetic.”
Investing in makers — both by offering the opportunity on the Plaza and giving permanent vendors financial assistance to create their individual physical spaces — is key to making the location a one-stop shop, Enders said.
“The Plaza is the No. 1 tourist destination in Kansas City. It’s the No. 1 tourist destination in Missouri. And it would be the No. 1 destination in Kansas. Our hope is that this marketplace becomes the No. 1 destination on the Plaza,” he said. “And we hope that when people are meeting — whether its their in-laws or friends from out of town — that there’s a reason for everyone to come here and it’ll truly showcase the city.”