The way is open and a new era has begun for Kansas City’s dreamers, doers, makers, and caffeinated creators.
“I’m really pulling that curtain back [and letting] makers do what they do,” explained Johnny Dawbarn, founder of Collective Ex — a collaborative of artisans, designers and creatives at 519 E. 18th St., now open to the public with a grand opening set for July 15.
Rich with collaborative spirit, Collective Ex is home to Thee Outpost — a new concept from Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters, which marks the brand’s hotly anticipated return to the Crossroads Arts District, said co-founder Bo Nelson.
“[Collective Ex has] the exact same motive as we had next door,” noted Nelson, referencing the former home of Thou Mayest, a block west on 18th street, which closed its doors in December.
Click here to track the Thou Mayest journey which includes the acquisition of Quay Coffee.
“The exact same mission, vision, value type of thing. It totally was in line. They just have 3D printers and CNC machines and laser cutters,” Nelson said, laughing.
A long-standing relationship, Dawbarn designed the packaging for many Thou Mayest coffee products, in addition to working on a number of other projects with Nelson, the pair explained as they worked hand-in-hand to fine-tune the Collective Ex space before its coming grand opening.
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“It was a great test of, ‘How does the Collective apply to all these things?’” Dawbarn said. “We sat down back in January and really looked at the Thou Mayest brand as a whole and said, ‘Oh wow, you got some really great spaces to play here, and here’s where you can lean in quick. … What you’re seeing now … it’s kind of the tip of the iceberg, but it’s the middle ground in terms of what we’re going to be bringing together.”
Featuring Thou Mayest standards and housing the brand’s official tasting lab — expected to produce one-off recipes, not available at other, future locations — Thee Outpost is the second offshoot of Thou Mayest to open in 2019.
Nelson launched Cafe Equinox in February.
“The key on [Cafe Equinox] is the remarkable destination or unique experiential part. And that’s what we’re trying to explore with Thee Outpost,” explained Dawbarn. “How can we do that quickly and simply, but at the same time have something that could be replicable, so that if we wanted to put it in the airport or put it in another business or another city, we can.”
Beyond its collaboration with Nelson, Collective Ex stands to create a unique retail experience for area brands — such as MADE MOBB and SewKC, Dawbarn said.
“A lot of times [the maker space] is so siloed, it’s like you don’t really see [products] until an event or in a store … maybe there’s a video on YouTube, but it still doesn’t feel inclusive, you know?” he said.
Through Collective Ex, consumers are invited to experience the creative process — a source of excitement and encouragement to press forward, Dawbarn said.