Editor’s note: Startland News explored The Black Pantry at Martini Corner in Midtown as part of the newsroom’s five-part holiday gift guide that highlights locally owned shops and the makers within them. The items identified here were curated by Brian Roberts, founder of The Black Pantry. Featured stores, makers and products were not asked to pay to be included in this series. Click here to follow along with the multi-day gift guide as it develops.
Entering his first holiday season with a brick-and-mortar storefront on Martini Corner, Brian Roberts humbly admitted he doesn’t know what to expect from shoppers.
“I don’t know how busy I’m going to be or what products people are going to buy; it’s like I’m walking in the dark. It’s scary — but in a good way. I’m taking this as a huge learning opportunity,” said Roberts, who originally founded The Black Pantry as a pop-up trailer before moving into a shared physical location at 325 E. 31st St. with Made in KC in April 2021.
The Black Pantry specializes in high-quality, Black-made and Black-owned products. Roberts’ initial vision was to create a centralized shopping hub for first-rate, Black-owned businesses, both in Kansas City and across the nation, and he’s stuck to that strategy.
“I’m trying to show the market that when you go and buy Black, the quality is there. We just don’t have the same [retail] outlets,” Roberts explained. “I’m learning that in Kansas City, there’s a lot of talented people; but they don’t have an outlet that they feel comfortable going to. So then they’re exclusively online and that makes it very difficult to actually find them.”
As The Black Pantry has grown from a pop-up trailer to 650-square-foot space in less than a year, the challenge of sourcing has also grown, Roberts noted.
“It is important to me to find products that align with my brand,” he said. “I know there are so many great Black-owned businesses out there; so, slowly but surely, as my platform gets bigger, those businesses will notice and want to jump on board.”
Shoppers have a completely different experience when they shop small and shop Black, Roberts added, as the experience is more personable and curated, he said.
“Shopping Black also brings more excitement to a product. … Every day I’m filling the store with more products and representing my community through more books, art, apparel,” Roberts continued, picking up a notebook with an illustration of a Black woman. “Like these notebooks — a little girl can take this to school with an image that looks like her. That’s pretty cool.”
The Black Pantry is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. On weekends, Roberts still takes The Black Pantry’s trailer to pop-up events. Follow The Black Pantry on Instagram to stay up-to-date on their pop-up schedule.
Five gifts from Black-made, Black-owned businesses
“Icons: 50 Heroines Who Shaped Contemporary Culture” by Micaela Heekin — $25
From activists to artists, Icons is a celebration of the strength of women and the ultimate gift for people of all ages. Illustrated by Monica Ahanonu, each portrait is accompanied by a short biography about what makes each woman a force to be reckoned with.
Available in store.
Candy Cane Sweatshirt by My Girl Stories — $50
Made in special collaboration with The Black Pantry, My Girl Stories’ (locally founded by Jasmine Diane) candy cane-themed sweatshirt can only be found in store. Gift your loved ones with this cozy find before it’s too late!
Available in store. Click here to read more about My Girl Stories.
ANI+CO. Candles — $23
Black-made and founded, ANI+CO. candles are meant to reclaim one’s inner peace and channel positivity with a memorable scent. Pick up a candle or two for someone special and have them think of you each time they burn it.
Available in store.
Trade Street Jam Co. Jams — $13
Treat your favorite foodie to the greatest thing since sliced bread — Trade Street Jam Co. With flavors ranging from “plum and rose” to “smoked yellow peach,” there’s a jam for everyone.
Available in store.
Grandeur Hair & Beard Oil by The BLAKK Co. — $30
Founded in Kansas City, The Blakk Co. provides a luxurious hair and beard oil serum. The high quality material will make anyone who receives this gift feel good.
Available in store. Click here to read more about The Blakk Co.
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.