KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kathy Gates is expanding her Missouri-based store, The Running Well Store to Mission on Johnson Drive just east of Lamar.
"I started recognizing Mission last year. I came down and had my eye on it. Recent developments with recent things that are going into town definitely sparked something in me," Gates said.
The goal is longevity for the corridor between Lamar and Nall, which is something many businesses have not been able to grasp.
Emily Randel with the City of Mission weighed in on why there are more vacant storefronts than they'd like.
"Low rents, low barriers to entry. So a lot of businesses just getting started are coming to Mission, and we love being that vibrant quirky space to start out, but it's really hard to keep a business going," Randel said.
Randel says the face of retail is changing and people want entertainment. Johnson Drive has long been the chosen location for antique stores and boutiques, a few of which are still thriving.
City officials feel they're on the verge of a turnaround.
Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio picked the long-vacant lot where Mission Mall used to be as the future site of his 40,000 square foot food hall. It will launch the much-anticipated Mission Gateway project, which will bring in more retail space and apartments. For over a decade, the city and residents couldn't agree on what should fill the space. Mission Mall was demolished in 2006.
Down the street, Werner's Fine Sausage has seen its fair share of businesses come and eventually pack up around them.
"We are a staple in Mission, been here since '74," Assistant Manager Brad Leffel said.
Leffel said they've seen small businesses fail because they didn't have a solid plan. He and the city hope a high-stakes project down the street will help be an anchor for stores like Gates's.
"At least people who have a strong idea of what they want to do and hopefully head on their shoulders to accomplish it," Leffel said.
Randel said Mission's walkability and diversity is always going to be there, but it's up to folks to make the most of it.
"We have to go and buy and support them," Randel said.
The Running Well Store is slated to open mid-July.
The city of Mission offers incentives to business owners with a reimbursement program to help refurbish storefronts.