Made in KC’s new flagship shop on the revitalized Martini Corner in Midtown — a storefront shared with The Black Pantry — is a place of discovery, said Keith Bradley, emphasizing the eclectic blend of Kansas City products alongside home goods, specialty foods, and daily necessities from Black-owned companies.
The 1,300-square-foot Made in KC retail space features about 250 local artists and makers — from established brands like Charlie Hustle, Nickel & Suede and Sandlot Goods to the younger creatives behind the Revolution Card Deck, Kansas City Puzzle Company and Commandeer Brand.
It’s doors opened to the public Thursday at 325 E. 31st St. A grand opening is planned for April 17.
“It’s fun when you come into a new store with a different product mix, and watch as people discover or rediscover items that maybe have been carried on our shelves for a while,” said Bradley, co-owner of Made in KC, discussing popular mainstay products that helped shape the retail startup’s early years. “We had some shoppers come through who saw the Edison Amps, popped their phones into them and couldn’t believe what they were seeing! You sometimes forget how cool it is to experience some of these products for the first time.”
Click here to shop Made in KC online.
The Midtown Made in KC location is one of the brand’s neighborhood shop concepts — in the vein of Made in KC’s stores at Prairiefire, Corinth Square and Briarcliff. It largely serves the Hyde Park, Union Hill, Quality Hill, and Midtown areas, while also aiming to attract curious shoppers from across the city.
“The unique draw is really The Black Pantry,” Bradley said, discussing Made in KC’s new partnership with Brian Roberts’ pop-up-turned-brick-and-mortar space. “After multiple conversations with Brian, we realized that this is exactly what Kansas City needs.
“What Made in KC does for Kansas City brands, The Black Pantry is doing for Black-owned brands from across the country.”
The new Midtown storefront provides the first brick-and-mortar location for The Black Pantry, which strives to lift Black voices by giving Kansas City shoppers a centralized place to support Black-owned brands from around the country.
Click here to learn more about Roberts’ journey to Made in KC with The Black Pantry, which sells such products as specialty foods, everyday staples, home goods, and alcohol from Black-owned businesses.
“We know how hard it is to start up a store, but by helping with staffing The Black Pantry to sell his retail products, we can help solve some of those challenges,” said Bradley, noting the shops share a point of sale. “That allows Brian the ability to focus on getting new products in, continuing his pop-up business, while having an anchor that provides customers with convenient shopping options, rather than just a special occasion. And it’s a really intimate space.”
Check out a photo gallery of goods available at The Black Pantry’s goods, then keep reading.
Thursday’s soft opening was a major step for the Martini Corner space — but not even close to the last, Bradley teased.
A new shuffleboard concept, Ludo’s — a three-lane mid-century dive meant for laid-back games and drinks — is slated to open in the spring as part of the same Made in KC complex. A Made in KC Cafe is expected in the southeast corner of the building, complete with a drive-thru, later in the season.
“We’re going to be really excited when the whole space comes online,” Bradley said, noting the Martini Corner location also is home to Made in KC’s relocated headquarters/offices. “This is a really busy corner and we’re looking forward to being part of the energy of this neighborhood, especially as it becomes more walkable.”
Beginning in 2015 as a pop-up shop featuring 13 artists, Made in KC now operates seven retail locations, as well as several coffee shops and bars throughout the metro. Its marketplace stores in Lee’s Summit and the Country Club Plaza are among the region’s top shopping and tourist destinations.
Click here to read why Startland News named Made in KC one of its Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2018.
“Kansas City has allowed us to stretch our creativity and concepts so that we have a really good balance,” Bradley said. “There’s really no Ludo’s without Made in KC. There’s no cafes without the retail elements. So it’s really great to see what a small group of retail goods has snowballed into.”
KC it now
Some items at The Black Pantry and Made in KC won’t stay on shelves — or walls — for long at Martini Corner, Roberts and Bradley noted.
The new space not only allows The Black Pantry more ability to stock major Black-owned brands that might otherwise not be available to a smaller pop-up shop, it also affords Roberts the opportunity to showcase works from Black visual artists in Kansas City, he said.
“I had so much space, but I knew I couldn’t fill that wall with products,” Roberts said, gesturing to a previously wide-open wall in the 650-square-foot area reserved for The Black Pantry. “I still wanted to do something special. At first I thought about having a mural [commissioned], but after doing some research I saw that would be a lot of money to help just one artist by having them come in to do the wall.”
His idea: use the blank canvas to boost a steady rotation of Kansas City creatives instead.
Roberts reached out to Natasha Ria Art Gallery — a space on 39th Street dedicated to the presence and potential of marginalized visual artists — which provided art pieces to adorn The Black Pantry. The works are only available for purchase directly through the gallery.
On the Made in KC side of the split store, the shop will be a favored location for new products to show and tell the story of Kansas City’s vibrant artist and maker community, the company said.
“Kicking this off in no small way is a gorgeous model of Kansas City’s Western Auto sign by Michael Curry of Kansas City Kit Company,” Made in KC said in an email to customers and supporters Thursday morning.
Made in KC commissioned Curry for the dynamic piece, which is expected to tour all the Made in KC shops across Kansas City.
“Be on the lookout for it! And yes! If your home needs this piece, it will be for sale!” Made in KC said.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.