Bob Stewart Sees Even Better Days Ahead at The Sharper Edge
Melting snow, rising temperatures, and the return of visitors casually strolling along 135th Street — all sure signs of spring in Martin City. Here’s another one: phones ringing off the hook at The Sharper Edge. “It’s been one order after another since the first of March,” says new owner Bob Stewart. “It’s a strong start to our busiest time of year and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
As soon as winter began loosening its grip, Stewart’s crews resumed delivery of the seamless ultra-premium concrete edging that gives The Sharper Edge its name and forms the foundation of its reputation. The list of landscapes where the business has left its mark is long. And once again this year, it’s getting longer.
“People are spending more time outdoors enjoying their yards and we love making that experience even better. Our calendar is filling up and we’re really enjoying getting back out into the field to show customers what we can do.”
Spring is springing everywhere at this garden specialty business in the heart of Martin City. You can’t miss the expansive display of fountains and statuary on the patio where Stewart and his team carefully position inventory for customers to browse, touch, and imagine the possibilities.
“You’re not going to find this kind of decor on the Internet,” says Stewart, pausing for a moment as he shows us around. “It makes our business an interesting destination and gives Martin City even more appeal.”
The Sharper Edge garden shop is blossoming as well. Premium nutrients, soils, equipment, and other specialty hardware are fully stocked as gardeners make their routine swings to pick up hard-to-find items not available at big box garden store chains.
“Service is where we really shine,” says Stewart. “It brings everything together and accounts for all the customer loyalty we enjoy. Whether you’re looking for planting and growing guidance, shopping for elegant landscape decor, or wanting high-quality, low-maintenance edging, our people are experts. They know exactly what they’re doing and how to help you.”
In fact, expertise has largely made the business what it is today. You’ll be happy to know that the same core team that’s cultivated The Sharper Edge’s success in recent years remains on the job. Even Scott Rutledge, the company’s founder and former owner is staying in touch in a consulting role to help Stewart learn the ropes of the business and the art of edging.
“Scott is just amazing,” says Stewart. “He built this business from the ground up and effectively navigated more than two decades including a recession and a pandemic. I can’t say enough about his legacy. The fact is, The Sharper Edge is already successful and I’m going to build on that success, not try to reinvent or overhaul the core business. I’m passionate about what Scott has created. That’s the main reason I bought The Sharper Edge, and I’m grateful for what he’s accomplished.”
A Serial Entrepreneur Takes Over.
The Sharper Edge is just the latest, not the first business Bob Stewart has commanded. His entrepreneurial track record dates back to the 1990s in his hometown of Davenport, Iowa where he spotted an opportunity in the dead of winter.
“The top was stolen off my Jeep and the dealer needed too much time to get me a new one. I mean it was snowing! So, I looked into other ways of getting my hands on a replacement, and pretty soon I was running a reseller business specializing in everything from tops and tires to rims, covers and roll bars.”
Stewart eventually moved to California where he ran a health insurance brokerage and then a computer consulting business. He got into acting, singing, and directing too. In the early 2000s, he funneled that knowledge into creating a web-based business that revolutionized how actors audition for jobs.
The acting bug followed Stewart to Kansas City about ten years ago. He’s remained active in the local theater scene while exploring entrepreneurial ventures, including an Amazon delivery business he grew to 60 routes and 100 employees before moving on. “That was very, very hard work but I learned so much about organization, productivity, and logistics.”
Now Stewart is settling in for the long haul at The Sharper Edge. He took over the business in late 2021 and is spending his first year learning the ins and outs. All the experience he’s picked up over the years, from that first automotive parts business in Iowa, all the way to Amazon, is already filling his head with ideas.
Stewart firmly believes no other business can compete with his team’s ability to deliver edging. He wants to work harder to raise awareness across Kansas City and add more crews to support the results. “Referrals fuel our business traditionally. That says a lot. But I think we can reach more customers and earn more opportunities. The quality of our work is rare and valuable, and I want more people to know about it.”
The garden shop, fountains, and statuary are immediately benefitting from Stewart’s logistical experience. He’s organizing merchandise around customers, grouping items together according to interests, and creating easier flow across the property.
Outdoor areas accessible to customers are expanding beyond the west patio to the south side out back. “We want customers to feel free to wander around and browse. The Sharper Edge is a place to experience as you shop. There’s a lot to see.”
A Neighborhood With a ‘Great Vibe’
You can’t help but notice Martin City when you’ve lived just down the road in south Overland Park for years. Stewart has not only noticed, he’s become a fan. “I’ve always loved Martin City. It’s got a great vibe, and I have to say, the feeling I get just being in the neighborhood is one of the main reasons I decided to go into business here.”
Browsing for his next venture, Stewart definitely had options in other locations, but how can you resist neighbors like Jack Stack Barbecue and Martin City Brewing Company? “I enjoy both of those restaurants! And I want to check out all the others. Everything just fits so well around here. I like the diversity.”
And what about Martin City’s ongoing renaissance? “I’m excited to join what’s happening and help shape the future. I’ve attended a Martin City Community Improvement District monthly Board meeting and I’m making the rounds to meet more of my neighbors. It’s going to be great watching our collective growth, and I think I have a lot to contribute because I’ve been hands on in all aspects of business. Being a part of a larger business community lifts you up. I’m looking forward to it!”
And we couldn’t be happier to have you in Martin City, Bob! Thanks for investing in our success and taking all the right cues from Scott Rutledge and the pioneering path he forged along the train tracks on 135th Street.