After wrapping up Day 4 in St. Louis for Independent We Stand‘s Great American Red, White and Q Road Trip, our group was ready to make our way to the last stop of the five-day trip: Kansas City, Missouri.
Day 5: Kansas City, Missouri
Early Friday morning, our team packed up the van one last time and hit the road from St. Louis to embark on the four-hour drive to Kansas City, Missouri. I was eager to get to town, because we would have the chance to visit two different hardware stores on the last day.
Our first stop in Kansas City was Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue. Around since 1957, the restaurant chain is now a family operation owned by the third generation that has grown to five locations and operates a catering company serving Kansas City barbecue across the country.
We’ve tasted some delicious barbecue from restaurants throughout the country as a part of the road trip. It was all delicious, and now I can say I’ve enjoyed barbecue from some of the country’s finest barbecue spots.
After filling up on barbecue over lunch for one last time, our group piled back in the van and took off for Family Center Farm and Home in Paola, Missouri. While at the store, we met Bill Mills, owner of the six-store, family-owned chain in Missouri and Kansas.
“Locally owned businesses create unique communities because, in my viewpoint, they are the foundation of the community. Without a good foundation, you don’t have a good house,” Mills says.
He believes local businesses have a mandate to be involved with their communities’ overall success.
“The local businesses are the ones that are in your storefronts, on your main streets—they’re the people involved in your community, on your hospital board, your school board and city council,” Mills says. “They’re involved in your community because they have a passion for your community because they have a business there. They filter out into the community in all aspects. That core base to your community brings that dedication to the community where you live.”
Family Center Farm and Home is active in the community by giving back as well, Mills says.
“Our operation sponsors many local events, like fairs and 5K runs,” Mills says. “In this particular town, we’re very active in the rotary club. Whatever happens throughout the year, we’re glad to help if we can. In my opinion, if you just sell but you don’t participate in your community, that’s a slow death. You need to participate and the community recognizes that. It’s appreciated and it’s a good overall feeling for everybody.”
After touring the store, we left and made our way to Euston Hardware in Kansas City, where we met owner Kevin Euston. The operation opened when Euston was in high school and he helped his dad from the start. After graduating college, he and his dad opened a second location and he’s been with the business since then. Today, they have four hardware locations.
Over the years, Euston has built relationships with his employees as well as his loyal customers, many of whom are second-generation shoppers at the business.
“About a month ago, I was called to the salesfloor from my office and had a customer ask to talk to me,” Euston says. “He said, ‘You probably don’t remember me,’ and then I told him I did and said his father’s name. His jaw dropped and he started crying. He told me his dad, who had passed away, loved the store and always talked about how much he liked shopping here. It brought tears to his eyes that I remembered his dad. These are experiences we have quite often, and it really makes you feel good.”
Our last stop of the day was at Oddly Correct, a coffee roaster, art shop and cafe located in Kansas City. While at the shop, we spoke to owner Gregory Kolsto.
“Our business is known for really high-quality coffee and a gritty curiosity to what we do here,” Kolsto says. “Unlike the national coffee chains, our operation offers flexibility, personality, soul and a more intimate connection with our customers.”
Before wrapping up a week of traveling, barbecue tasting and small business visits, we had one interview left with Diane Burnette, executive director of Midtown KC Now.
According to Burnette, the organization is the leading community partner working to support commercial, mixed-use and residential progress. The organization also supports economic and aesthetic development to encourage the vitality of Midtown Kansas City.
“Americans should support Main Streets across our country because this country was built by the hands of people,” Burnette says. “Entrepreneurs built our country, not the corporations. Corporations were created by those entrepreneurs as they grew larger, so let’s make sure we can continue the cycle of helping entrepreneurs as they can grow and be better for our entire country. If Americans spend their dollars locally, it stays local.”
After our last interview, the team made its way to Crossroads Hotel. Located inside a former Pabst brewing facility, the space merged the unique characteristics of the past with a modern stylistic take.
We wrapped up the trip with a round of drinks and pizza to celebrate. After five cities in five days, we accomplished our goal of covering more areas of the country to celebrate what makes independent businesses unique, vital and thriving.