Rum, rye, and a retail renaissance are headed for the business district that sits just east of the Crossroads Arts District, teased Eric Flanagan.
“I’m passionate about sandwiches; I’m passionate about beer; I’m passionate about good service, good music. All the stuff I love, I’m trying to bring that into this place,” said the Kansas City entrepreneur, who is expected to open King G — a modern-twist on a classic delicatessen and bar — in July at 18th and Locust.
King G is set to feature a menu of such classic deli sandwiches as pastrami on rye, egg salad, and the muffaletta — largely inspired by Flanagan’s childhood in Port Jefferson, New York (just off Long Island), and curated by Chef Howard Hanna, locally lauded and nationally acclaimed chef and restaurateur.
Click here to learn more about King G and its menu.
Among the highlights: a tomago, Japanese egg salad sandwich crafted by Hanna, as well as a Taylor Ham sandwich like diners might find in New Jersey or New York, Flanagan said.
“It’s really harkening back to those days for me,” he said.
By night, craft cocktails, natural wines, and craft beer will round out the King G menu, as its garage doors roll up and two bars (including one below street level just steps away) open for customers — set against a backdrop of Crossroads-inspired street art and coveted views of the Kansas City skyline.
“We back up to Art Alley. I’m looking at this location and I’m like, ‘Why the hell would I not get involved in the street art world?’ All these talented people are down here, let’s showcase them and showcase this neighborhood as best as possible,” Flanagan told Startland News during a tour of the bare bones space, which had just completed sheetrock work.
“You don’t want to put a Plaza or [Power and Light] bar in the middle of the Crossroads. I don’t think that’ll work. You need to put a Crossroads bar here,” he said, referencing a massive floor-to-ceiling mural of King G — inspired by King Gambrinus, mythical ruler of beer, brewing, and joy.
The art piece was designed by local muralist Sebastian Coolidge and adopts the street art style of the East Crossroads — an effort to make King G and the neighborhood feel like a cohesive experience; one of the biggest opportunities Flanagan has before him, he said.
“When I first came down here, Thou Mayest was still open in their original location and I met Bo [Nelson.] He did this thing where he took me around to every single place and I met all these managers, owners, and landlords,” he recalled, adding Nelson carried the air of an aldermen for the arts district.
“I really appreciated what he did because, one, he was just being cool to me. But two, I was meeting all these creative types and hearing what they’re trying to do down here and it aligned with what I would do if I was down here.”
So, Flanagan signed a lease on a corner space, just a stone’s throw away from Nelson’s Thou Mayest — now the expanded home of Grinders, which he hopes to partner with in addition to other small businesses, such as east Crossroads neighbor HIGHTIDES Coffee, Blackhole Bakery, and a growing list of local brewers, distillers, farmers, and growers. “A car had run into the building, it was all beat up. But I thought we could do something cool here,” he said, noting plans were quickly coming together to get King G up and running in fall 2018.
Weeks into construction, the corner of the building partially collapsed.
“I was sitting and watching football on a Sunday. My daughter who was about 10 months old was on my lap. I have a group text chain with all my buddies that I’ve known forever and somebody had a snapshot of somebody else’s Instagram post of this collapse. My buddy said, ‘Eric, is this near your place?’ And I said, ‘That is my place.’”
Three years later — with the structure rebuilt and nearing completion — Flanagan is eager to put the delays behind him, ready to open King G at a time Kansas Citians need it most.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think it was going to be highly trafficked with happy people, just ready to go out and have a good time with their old friends,” he said, noting he could have walked away from the project in light of building setbacks and the COVID-19 pandemic, but chose to hold on, eager to realize King G’s potential for community impact.
“When I’m working on stuff I see people walking around. It’s a great neighborhood to walk around and it’s not just lined up with bars like Westport — there’s all kinds of things here. There’s art galleries, there’s distilleries, there’s breweries, there’s little restaurants,” he continued.
“Here we are. It’s been a long road, but we believe in what we’re doing and the location and we believe in the neighborhood and all the people that work and live in this neighborhood.”
“In my industry, you get a lot of ‘nos.’ I don’t care if you’re the most experienced operator in the world, if you go to traditional lending … you’re going to get a lot of, ‘What are you doing?’ And especially during COVID,” Flanagan said, detailing his struggle to onboard traditional funders.
Throughout his 15 years in the hospitality industry, Flanagan has served as owner and operator at OFFKEY and Bridger’s Bottle Shop, as well as general manager at Leinenkugel’s, Westport Ale House, 99 Hops House, and McFadden’s Pub.
“My best friend’s dad owned an Italian restaurant and I always thought that was kind of interesting — because it was a totally different way of living,” he said of his experience observing another style of working family that didn’t necessarily involve a suit and tie. “I just remember it was like a loose, more relaxed household and I just started going that route.”
Flangan is also a brewer, experienced beer purchaser, and certified cicerone and beer judge. His in-depth knowledge and passion for beer education and brewing has helped him pour success at Mission, Kansas-based Sandhills Brewing Company — his second passion, outside of King G.
Crowdfunding the king
“I’ve got about 30 nos. I had one guy, a banker tell me, ‘You’re trying to open up a bar and restaurant during COVID? What are you doing?’ And I go, ‘Well, sir, I didn’t exactly plan on doing this during a pandemic.’”
Thinking outside the box, Flanagan turned to crowdfunding through Mainvest — a rising crowdfunding platform, designed specifically for mainstreet businesses.
“We’ve raised $61,000 already, with a goal of $150,000 — and we’re not done yet.”
Click here to support the King G campaign on Mainvest.
The platform offers backers a revenue sharing note and entitles them to a percentage of King G’s future revenue.
King G is the first business in the Kansas City-area to use the platform, Flanagan said. He hopes to encourage more local businesses to follow-suit.
“We’re going to start pushing it pretty hard. I love their business and I love what their mission is.”Click here to read about Lawrence-based RPG which also ran a Mainvest campaign.