KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The area known as Martini Corner located near 31st and Gillham Road in Kansas City is going through a bit of a revitalization.
The Black Pantry, Made in KC and Cliffs Tavern, have opened in the past week with more businesses expected to open soon.
"This is a very electric part of town, it’s in the middle of the city [and] it’s probably one of the best places to have done this shop," Brian Roberts, owner of The Black Pantry, said.
Roberts did several pop-up shops to sell items before opening his first brick and mortar store on the southwest corner of 31st and Oak Street.
"The Black Pantry is a space where you can buy everything Black. I seen a lot of boutiques that sold items but nothing was from the Black culture. The closest you would get was something of African descent," Roberts said.
The business sells anything from clothing to candles to art from Black-owned businesses locally and nationally.
"There’s nothing like it but it’s something that’s very much needed in this community," Roberts said.
The shop is in a shared space with Made in KC which had its grand opening on Saturday.
The business was a hit with customers.
"It is beautiful, I think it’s a blessing that it’s here. I think it is awesome they are able to bring in Black-owned businesses in here one-stop shopping," customer Yvette Sabur said. "This will give me an opportunity to come down here and be able to buy some of the things that I usually order online right here."
It's these new businesses that are fueling the transformation of Martini Corner and neighborhood leaders are also noticing the changes.
"You see people walking their dogs and baby strollers a lot more so there’s a lot more activity," Michelle Dreher, who is a neighborhood leader and the owner of Two Tone Press, said.
Dreher is part of a group wanting the district to renamed to "Tower East."
"Just so that people could start to recognize this as sort of a business district area," she said.
Dreher also noticed many of the new shops are not national brands which adds to the unique flair of the neighborhood.
"Those are locally owned businesses so its nice to see those kind of places pop up," she said.
During the pandemic many restaurants closed down including Ollie's, which was located at 31st and Gillham Road. New owners bought the property and renamed it to Cliff's Taphouse.
"We have a lot of great bars in this neighborhood we want to try and fill a little different niche where if people want a dining night that they can look for Cliff’s Taphouse for that," owner Larry Kime said.
The restaurant offers a variety of foods from flatbreads, wings, steak, salmon but will cater to vegan and vegetarians dishes with a full bar and outdoor patio that can seat 50-60 people.
"Really, what we want people to feel comfortable with is; great family restaurant, great food," Kime said.
It's a district shaken up adding excitement in this neighborhood once again.
"I think it’s extremely important for the Black community to be a part of the revitalization and gentrification of these areas," Roberts said. "I know a lot of times you hear those words and you get a bad taste, what we need to do is mobilize and figure out how we can be a part of it and be a part of the dialogue and business footprint."