Main Street isn’t just a bridge connecting the Country Club Plaza to downtown Kansas City, Katie Mabry van Dieren said, detailing how she hopes her new retail gift and flower shop in Midtown will shatter stereotypes — along with showcasing makers.
“Midtown has really been divested,” Mabry van Dieren said Wednesday afternoon from the Shop Local KC storefront. “And a lot of people in Kansas City drive Main and don’t really even consider stopping — they don’t even know what it’s like right here.”
With her store’s grand opening Friday, she aims to help change those trends, she said.
Shop Local KC boasts goods — grouped by maker — from apparel and jewelry to artwork and plants, as well as a curated, online marketplace featuring more than 300 Kansas City artisans, Mabry van Dieren said. The store is an extension of the Strawberry Swing Indie Craft Fair, which she founded in 2011.
Click here to explore Shop Local KC.
“Everything is handmade by local people,” Mabry van Dieren said. (The owner herself crafts the store’s floral arrangements — a skill she picked up out of necessity toward the end of the COVID-19 shutdown when florists left craft shows to return to more traditional events and work.)
“I love that we are on Main Street. In the next few years, we’ll be along the streetcar line,” she continued, noting that until the coming KC Streetcar extension is complete, the store offers plenty of parking for shoppers who drive. “It’s just a very accessible location whether you’re using the bus line, walking or in your own car.”
The brick-and-mortar store — at 3630 Main St. — sits next to an in-the-works makerspace, Mabry van Dieren said, which will offer an area for makers who need small studio spaces. It also serves as a versatile event space, she added.
Click here to follow Shop Local KC on Instagram.
“Receiving support from local boutiques like Shop Local KC is a game-changer for makers like me,” said Godfrey Riddle, founder and president of Civic Saint, a Kansas City apparel and accessories brand. “One of the hardest parts about starting a craft business is connecting with customers to build brand awareness and sustainable income, but Katie is tackling that challenge for the maker community with her shop full of beautiful, well-curated handmade goods.”
Check out a brief gallery of select products at Shop Local KC’s storefront, then keep reading.
Making space for a dream
A storefront of her own was always in the back of Mabry van Dieren’s mind, she said, but it wasn’t in her plans until COVID-19 struck.
“Because I have kiddos, like many of my makers, I hadn’t even been able to think about how I would do a store — I wanted a store, for sure, but I didn’t know how I could do it with my babies,” she said, noting the support of her husband, a chef at a Westport restaurant who was sidelined during the pandemic. “COVID totally made it so my husband got to stay home. And I suddenly had much more time for myself because he was helping with all these things that normally were happening while he was gone at work.”
Mabry van Dieren went from being able to work four hours a day to nine, she said.
“I finally had time to get a business plan made, find spaces that were available,” she explained. “Because of COVID, a lot of these chain stores just closed and left the strip malls, the Plaza, Zona Rosa, Town Center — really opening the door for small businesses that hadn’t had an opportunity to fill a space like this before.”
One store that vacated a space at Town Center in Leawood left all its fixtures, which she purchased, Mabry van Dieren said, but she didn’t want to place the business in Kansas — she felt called to Midtown.
That’s where Exact Partners — the development team behind the Wonder Shops + Flats and Ruby Jean’s Kithen and Juicery on Troost Aveneue — came in, she said. Mabry van Dieren had previously worked with the developers on a separate project, Troost Market Collective.
Exact helped Shop Local KC find a home on Main Street within one of their development projects, she said, giving new life to what had been a laundromat facility.
“Supporting entrepreneurs like Katie Mabry Van Dieren and Shop Local KC with spaces that work is why I got into commercial real estate and what Exact is about,” said Ilan Salzberg, one half of the duo behind Exact. “The Exact team is thrilled to meet her business’s needs today and to grow with her and continue to support her into the future.”
The developers share a similar vision for the Midtown area with Mabry van Dieren, they said, noting her business is a great addition to Main Street and its potential.
“Affordably priced housing and new business startups are something that we’ve been proud to be a part of on Troost and now in Midtown,” said Caleb Buland of Exact Partners. “We’re excited for the next steps on our district plan to provide opportunities like this for everyone.”
Sharing the spirit of Strawberry Swing
While the Strawberry Spring craft fairs continue monthly and at farmers market pop-ups, Mabry Van Dieren said she’s excited by the opportunity to operate her own space in a fixed location. And because she is buying the products wholesale, rather than following a consignment model, she’ll be working directly with customers, not just vendors, for the first time.
“I’ve always just been a bridge between the makers and the customer, but now I’m actually selling,” she said with a wide smile.
“I was kind of unprepared at first. I didn’t really think about certain things — I’d never had to be the one thinking about pricing or the number of shirts to stock,” Mabry Van Dieren said. “But it’s all really exciting. There are so many ways that I can expand my reach and exposure for my makers. Like I can offer little gift cards now — and I designed them — so people can actually give them as presents and someone else can come in, look around the store, and pick things out for themself. I’ve never really had a way to share the business like that.”
She’s also proud to market Shop Local KC as a woman-owned business that supports women, makers of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community, she said.
“You literally meet every kind of person in this business,” Mabry Van Dieren said. “And meeting them — literally meeting them, face-to-face — is a big part of why people love the craft fairs so much. It becomes a situation where you really know who you’re shopping from, and it’s part of a lifestyle where you see and feel the social impact.”
A June 4 ribbon cutting ceremony for the business — alongside neighboring The Blakk Co. gentlemen’s social club — drew Mayor Quinton Lucas, dozens of makers and shoppers. It also logged 62 sales in two hours, she said, teasing a trend of support she hopes will continue for Shop Local KC.
“I’m watching people’s dreams come true and I love it,” Mabry Van Dieren said. “So many of us dream of starting our own business — and a lot of people dream of having storefront like this. I’m just happy to be able to live it.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that seeks to build inclusive prosperity through a prepared workforce and entrepreneur-focused economic development. The Foundation works to change conditions, address root causes, and break down systemic barriers so that all people – regardless of race, gender, or geography – have the opportunity to achieve economic stability, mobility, and prosperity.