Chris Goode is helping change what Troost Avenue means to Kansas City, pastor Stanley Archie said Saturday morning at the grand opening of Ruby Jean’s Kitchen & Juicery.
Troost has been a place of division, he said, noting years of racial segregation along the corridor where those with a “permanent tan” weren’t welcome west of the street, and their lighter-skinned counterparts were equally “uninvited” on the east side.
But it’s a new day, the Christian Fellowship Baptist Church pastor told a crowd gathered in the cold outside Ruby Jean’s at 3000 Troost — in large part because of people like the business’ founder, Goode.
“Over the years, a vision came across Kansas City: Troost would no longer be a dividing line, but be a line of unity. A line of opportunity. A line of entrepreneurial collectiveness,” Archie said.
Declaring Nov. 11, 2017, as “Ruby Jean’s Juicery Day” in Kansas City, Missouri, Scott Taylor echoed the pastor’s sentiments.
“As we are bringing back Troost, it’s really going to be entrepreneurs like Chris who lead the way,” said Taylor, a Kansas City councilman who serves on and helped found the city’s Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Jobs Committee.
Goode stood Saturday morning below an image of his grandmother, Ruby Jean, the namesake of his business. Her face looked down upon the crowd as Goode pledged not to shed tears at yet another Ruby Jean’s opening. His brand now has multiple locations across Kansas City, as well as juiceries established or planned in two other Midwest metro areas.
“This is a special moment. It’s not about me. This is about community. It’s about Kansas City,” Goode said. “This street has represented not-so-good things for a long time. This is the segregation line. But the people who are here — look around — this is not segregation. This is unity. This is diversity. This is culture. This is family.”
Saturday’s opening marked the expansion of Ruby’s Jean’s into larger-scale food production. The 5,000-square-foot space will address the need for healthy cafe-style options within the food desert of Kansas City’s east side.
Goode touted the work of his young executive chef, Jayaun Smith, with helping to transform the food landscape via Ruby Jean’s menu. “Chef Jay” had to adapt his own style as part of the process, he said.
“This 21-year-old dude is back here whipping up vegan black-eyed pea burgers. It warms my heart,” Goode said. “He used to like fried chicken and this and that, so I’ve been praising him and pushing him.”
Ruby Jean’s and its new concept are a great fit for Troost, said Sheryl Vickers, owner of Select Sites and who worked with Goode to bring the popular business to a street corner across from the Wonder lofts complex.
“I feel really good about this and I’m proud of Chris,” she said. “Juice on Troost is an amazing step in the right direction to give the neighborhood options rather than having to leave the area to spend that money.”
Saturday’s grand opening was the largest Councilman Taylor had seen for a small business in Kansas City, Taylor said. About an hour after the event began, a line of customers continued to form outside, stretching to the intersection of 30th and Troost. (Goode reported Sunday morning on social media that Ruby Jean’s had served 500 people in five hours Saturday.)
“Where’s Chris?” one young woman asked, camera-in-hand as she pushed through the thick crowd inside trying to find the owner.
“He’s on the move!” a man nearby answered, laughing.