Moving The Sundry this month to Plexpod reflects the evolution and future of where people live and work, Ryan Wing said.
And, of course, how they eat.
A leader in Kansas City’s sustainable food movement, The Sundry plans to relocate its store from the Crossroads to a 3,300-square-foot space at Plexpod Westport Commons. It’s the first big step in a broad collaboration with the coworking innovator, Wing, The Sundry founder said.
“As we’ve grown this partnership with Plexpod, a lot of it is them believing in us, but it’s also us believing in them and what they’re doing,” he said. “We really have bought into the idea that Plexpod and coworking is the future of where and how people will work, and we’ve now been able to align The Sundry with that future.”
The new store and restaurant space will be about the same physical size as the current location at 1706 Baltimore Avenue, said Lilly Long, The Sundry general manager. It is expected to open in late September, with the Crossroads store closing as part of the transition to Plexpod.
“You have to see this place — a fantastic design from the wonderful folks at Helix,” said Gerald Smith, Plexpod founder and CEO. “It features a surrounding bar, and all the food is prepared in front of you. We also have mezzanine seating and an expansive outdoor deck area with tremendous views of the Plexpod Westport Commons campus.”
While Plexpod members will enjoy access to The Sundry as an on-site food provider catering meals daily throughout its facilities, Smith emphasized the space also will serve the surrounding neighborhood and beyond.
“Part of our mission at Plexpod is to have a positive community impact, and The Sundry will be one of a number of ways we accomplish this,” Smith said. “The Sundry will be open to the public and not only just another great food establishment option, but one that serves quality, natural, locally-sourced ingredients.”
With the move, The Sundry will continue to use existing vendors and farmers, Wing said, while seeking more collaborators for its ongoing mission.
“Our goal is to scale up the availability of sustainable and local food, so that means we need to work with a lot of partners to make it happen,” he said. “The more people you get in the space together, the more ideas enter the door.”
The Sundry is working with CultivateKC to finalize plans for an on-site urban farm at Plexpod Westport Commons from which the store would source some of its produce.
“Imagine: a tomato grown on-site being served on-site on your sandwich in the The Sundry,” Smith said.
The CultivateKC project offers an opportunity for the public and Plexpod members to see the best practices of progressive urban farming showcased, Smith said. The required mindset is another natural fit for both The Sundry and the entrepreneurially-focused coworking space, Wing said.
“It’s not something people necessarily first think about when they think startups, but farming is absolutely entrepreneurship,” Wing said. “It’s people risking capital and resources, hoping something good is going to happen on the backend. Our food system as a whole is something that needs a lot more love and thought.”
The Sundry-Plexpod partnership isn’t limited to Westport Commons. The pair are developing a “The Sundry Essentials” grab-n-go concept that will debut at Plexpod’s Lenexa campus, Wing said. The site is expected to offer The Sundry menu items – produced off-site — as well as basic grocery items.
“It allows us to embed ourselves in a location to offer sustainable food and beverage service without having to build a full kitchen or store,” Long said.
The prospect of multiplying the outcomes of their efforts without duplicating all the work is exciting, she said, but there’s still a lot to figure out about how to maximize efficiencies while still tailoring offerings to different neighborhoods and customer demographics.
“That’s what’s cool about Plexpod,” Wing added. “There’s so much of a feeling of experimentation and collaboration.
“We can’t yet really imagine all the ways that will take shape. We need to get on site and start developing relationships with people to figure out how we can offer them more value.”
As The Sundry expands to other cities with Plexpod, the duo also will open new locations within the Commerce Tower development in Kansas City.
Offering 325 apartments above a store for The Sundry and three floors of coworking space for Plexpod, Wing said, the “vertical community” will feature such amenities as a full early childcare center, indoor dog park, child playground, Park University and beauty shop.
It’s an example of how people of the future will live, and it aligns with the goals of both brands, he said.
“That has advantages for us, and it allows us to serve a much broader base of people,” Wing said.
The project is going to other U.S. cities and The Sundry plans to expand with it, he said. While a new store likely will be open at Commerce Tower by early 2018, The Sundry could be in a second vertical neighborhood in another city by late 2018.
Five years in the making
“The Sundry was started on a shoestring and a dream of ‘If we just get the doors open and show people what we have in mind, then opportunity will come our way if people like it,” Wing said.
He began working on the business five years ago, with the Crossroads location open for three, he said. And fortunately for The Sundry, the concept resonated with the community.
“If you’re a founder, and you see other people get behind and embrace the same dream that you have, that’s the tops. It’s really gratifying,” he said.
“No one can even imagine what this project will become in the next year, let alone the next five years,” Long added.
With the new Plexpod store and planned additional sites, The Sundry expects to add staff for the Westport Commons and grab-n-go locations, she said. Most immediately, that could mean a couple of new full-time employees and three to five part-timers for the store and catering business, as well as three to five staff members for the Lenexa site.
A future food lab and soda bottling production program easily could require another four to five employees, Long said.
The Sundry also plans to raise its own internal minimum wage — set at $10 an hour since Day 1, Wing said.
“Most of our current employees earn well above that minimum, plus all employees share all tips. And we look forward to being able to raise that minimum to $15 an hour as we continue to grow,” he said. “We’re all about sustainability and sustainability is about a lot more than environmental concerns. People, planet, and profit have to stay in balance to truly solve the problem of creating a sustainable American food system.”