KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When YJ's Snack Bar closed the doors at its new space in the Westside neighborhood this spring, it left many people in the community puzzled. But now, there's an effort to keep the cafe open by artists — the same ones the business has supported over the years.
Artists and musicians, including Erin Keller, rejoiced a year ago when YJ's found a new home at 1746 Washington St.
"I was excited because it’s so much bigger. That means that there’s so much potential to do even more in the community," Keller said.
YJ's left its original Crossroads location of more than 90 years after a new owner bought the building at 18th and Wyandotte streets.
However, after moving to the new space, YJ's owner David Ford said his health began to decline.
"I’ve had five surgeries and I’m on 12 medicines a day," Ford told 41 Action News. "I haven’t been able to work for a year."
Ford's health eventually forced him to close the cafe two months ago.
Kayla Williams, an artist and entrepreneur, is now leading a grassroots effort to keep what she calls a vital resource for artists alive.
"Now we’re looking at coming into it with a fresh start and still keeping the idea and spirit of what it's supposed to be," Williams said.
Williams, who has overseen training for a Fortune 500 company, launched a GoFundMe campaign to cover initial costs.
"I created a business plan to run this as a cafe and what we’re considering like a lab for the local musicians," Williams said.
Ford supports her vision.
"They’re people that I love, and I trust that they’re going to bring the jazz community and performance community forward because that’s what I believe," he said.
But Ford says the clock is ticking: In 45 days, he must start moving out of the space.
"We all have to contribute what we can, contribute to make sure that this stays a safe haven in our community," Keller said.
While the doors remain closed for daily business, YJ's is hosting pop-up events to help raise money for a reopening. If you would like to donate, click here.