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Co-founders of The Blakk Co. open new location in the historic Wonder Bread Factory

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Posted at 3:37 PM, Mar 06, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Anyone who has lived in Kansas City for a long time likely remembers the iconic Wonder Bread Factory located on E. 30th Street and Troost.

“What I remember most about this building is riding up and down Troost and smelling the smell of bread, all day long,” Kansas City native Khadijah Hardaway said.

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A photo hangs on the wall in the renovated Wonder Bread Factory building showing the former use of the building.

More than 100 years after it was built in 1915, the now-renovated building offers apartments and a place for minority-owned businesses. For Hardaway, that is progress from what she saw growing up.

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Khadijah Hardaway

“Your grandmother has the best fried rice or best fried chicken and they don’t have a restaurant in the community,” Hardaway said. “The city won’t give them permits to do the things they need to do.”

That is why for the newest member of the building, The Blakk Company, it feels full circle. Co-founders Christina Williams and Tamela Ross both grew up on the Eastside of Troost.

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KSHB 41 News reporter JuYeon Kim (left) meets with The Blakk Co. co-founders Christina Williams and Tamela Ross.

“Coming into this building, we knew it was gonna be some history,” Williams said.

The women launched a social club for Black and Brown people in the height of the George Floyd protests. Its new location in the basement of the Wonder Shops & Flats will fill up with continued conversations on race, mental health and business.

“Being able to open up a social club for communities of color, on the east side of Troost, where there used to be such a challenging conversation about Black and Brown people being in spaces like this… and then having to open up a business? That’s a whole other thing,” Williams said.

For Ritchie Cherry who joined the club two years ago, the key word is “liberation.”

“It was a space where I can come, and I could be my authentic self. I could express freely,” said Cherry. “I’m so elated to be in this space right now, knowing that we’ve come so far.”

Hardaway says a building is just a shell until you put people, ideas and energy in it. She hopes Williams and Ross reclaiming a space that would have institutionally locked them out is an opportunity to rewrite history on this side of Troost.

“A lot of hope is amongst Troost Avenue for change,” said Hardaway.