Support across neighborhood takes many forms as revitalization rolls on.
If you want a quick take on what makes Martin City special from a business owner’s perspective, ask a newcomer. “Everyone is so friendly and helpful, both the people who live here and those working at local businesses,” says Doris Graves, owner of The Little Green Acre, a new Airbnb rental at 135th and Cherry Street. “People started coming over to visit even before I officially opened my doors. It really makes me feel like my business is in the right place.”
Graves immediately made friends with Jess and Jim’s Steakhouse owners Mike and Debbie Van Noy, right across the street. They leased property to her and helped fix it up to get her business going. She also has friends at Habitat ReStore Martin City, a few blocks away on Wyandotte Street where she shops for eclectic decor that defines the experience inside her business.
“It’s easy to see that we have it all here. Just look around. The veterinarian, the restaurants, the post office up the street. We’re a community. We touch each other’s lives. We share resources, thinking, and a desire to help each other. I truly believe Martin City is special.”
Bob Stewart’s first impression was similar. He recently took ownership of The Sharper Edge just up the street from The Little Green Acre. Stewart quickly picked up on a unique sense of community and jumped right in. “I’m excited about joining what’s happening here and helping shape the future. I’ve attended neighborhood business meetings and I’m making the rounds. It’s going to be great watching our collective growth. Being a part of a larger business community lifts you up.”
He’s right, it really does! The feeling of pride and partnership we share in Martin City is the foundation of our progress. We believe that if we pull together, we can make our neighborhood better than ever. And that’s saying a lot for a community that dates back more than a century.
“Many businesses have worked hard to make our neighborhood what it is today,” says Martin City Community Improvement District Manager Vickie Wolgast. “As more businesses get involved, we’ll get more done, and we’ll do it faster. There’s so much to show for our collaboration already, and there’s a lot more to come.”
Wolgast is our neighborhood’s top recruiter for participation in the Martin City Community Improvement District (MCCID). The MCCID Board is made up of representatives from neighborhood business, which currently include Suburban Lawn and Garden, Reno’s Powersports KC, Cyderes, and several others. It’s been the driving force behind our revitalization for years, leading the push for everything from road, sidewalk, and landscaping enhancements to traffic cameras, bike racks, and overnight security patrols.
“I mean look at this!” says Cindy Reynolds, owner of Somerset Wine & Cider Bar, a popular nightlife venue in partnership with Rosehill Gardens. “You’ve got these fantastic, wide sidewalks lined with beautiful hanging baskets and plenty of street parking. Martin City is a safe, lovely ‘town.’ I just love, love it. Every bit of it.”
The MCCID also holds public meetings at 8:30am on the second Thursday of each month inside Jess and Jim’s to give businesses a chance to come together and identify what’s working and what needs attention. “Those meetings really fill you in on what’s happening,” says Brenda Lopez, office manager at Great Plains Drilling Inc. “You learn a lot about how things are going in the neighborhood and how your business fits in. You can also voice your opinions or concerns and get answers to questions affecting your business.”
There’s the Martin City Business and Community Association too, an organization coordinating with the MCCID to put together events that make our neighborhood even more appealing to visitors. If you want to see what local businesses can do when they pull together, come out for the Martin City St. Patrick’s Parade or our Holiday Lighting Celebration — just two examples of fun activities throughout the year.
“No community in all of Kansas City has more charm than Martin City,” says Karyn Brooke, owner of the longtime Martin City business Sidelines Custom Floral. “Many of us who have businesses here just can’t see ourselves anywhere else. It’s our home and we share something special.”
That ‘something special’ is hard to pinpoint, but it has to do with a gritty determination. It’s a relentless drive to solve your own problems and help your neighbors solve their problems, too. And it’s fueled by a unique passion to make things better, richer, and flat out more fun in your neighborhood, even when life hands you lemons.
“We’ve overcome so much,” says Brooke, reflecting on a long community history challenged by a pandemic, recessions, tornadoes, and other gut punches. “And we’ve banded together to help each other and chart our own course into the future. That’s what a community does.”
What the community did for Anointed House of Glory is a good example. When the church’s congregation was first settling in, a few years ago, Jack Stack Barbecue and RC’s Restaurant routinely donated food and other support for Sunday services. And when Midwest Heating Cooling & Plumbing heard about the church’s failing furnace, they helped replace it and came to the rescue again later when the water heater broke down.
Pastor Darwin Neal says his church is proof that Martin City is more than a neighborhood. “Martin City is a family. The businesses here are just wonderful. They look out for each other and take care of us. They want to see us thrive. We are just so grateful.”
Stories like that are common throughout our community’s long history. We back each other up and put our heads together to come up with solutions. When Midwest Recovery Centers needed to expand its critical care services, Jack Stack Barbecue happily hammered out the sale of its old banquet halls on Holmes Road. When the idea of a Martin City Community Tree blossomed, Rosehill Gardens delivered the tree and KC Pros Electric wired decorative lights. Giving back is just part of who we are, from holiday gift drives benefiting Cornerstones of Care to backpack donations at our annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Day benefitting kids at the Martin City K-8 school.
Hangers Cleaners owner Joe Runyan has watched with pride through the years as good intentions have stitched together Martin City’s hometown character. “Everyone here cares about each other. They want the community to do well. The people are all pretty good salt-of-the-earth people that you have to love.”
While some businesses have boosted community health, like Dental Care Center of South Kansas City’s free service on Veterans Day, others have built up infrastructure. When Gale Holsman moved his American Companies enterprise into our neighborhood, he bought 18 acres of land that had become little more than an illegal dumping ground. Holsman cleaned it all up and created his own utility connections from scratch. He even built a road connecting American Companies to Blue Ridge Boulevard, all by himself.
Martin City Coffee faced a similar challenge. Owners Penny Romero and Rick Ramsey built their business from the ground up. “We actually built it from below ground up,” says Romero. “We had to put in sewer and water lines, including a pretty tough job burrowing beneath Holmes Road. We also had to create infrastructure to bring in more power.”
You hear the term ‘shop local’ a lot, and in Martin City, we make it a way of life. Our powerhouse businesses funnel volumes of visitors through our streets every day and encourage discovery of the Martin City experience. Cyderes hosts a steady stream of visitors from around the world, always pointing them to local restaurants and other hot spots. Volleyball Beach draws thousands of players from all over Kansas City every week, and invites them to stick around and explore. So does Eagles Gymnastics and Mac N Seitz. Both businesses draw huge numbers of people. Mac N Seitz owner Danny Lake simply loves the community his business has called home for a quarter century.
“Thousands of our families pass through Martin City, and parents often linger while their kids are working out at our facility. It’s a good chance for us to introduce them to other local businesses. We’re proud of what Martin City has to offer, and we want our customers to know about it.”
Janelle Burlin, co-owner of KJB Packaging Solutions, doesn’t hesitate to promote Martin City either. “Every week we’ve got hundreds of customers, suppliers, and shipping partners passing through and we send them exactly where they need to go to shop or eat. Partnerships are critical to our business, and we appreciate our partnership with this community. We want people to know about it.”
When it comes to partnerships, KC Running Company really steps up, hosting a number of fun racing events in our neighborhood every year. Martin City’s Lukas Wine and Spirits Superstore, Martin City Brewing Company, Martin City Coffee, RC’s Restaurant, and others, have pitched in to make each event memorable with everything from supplies to service. “Businesses that contribute to the Whiskey Run and other events really make an impact,” says Brad Ziegler, Event Director at KC Running Company and MCCID Board Member. “They raise awareness of the good things going on in our community.”
The feeling of pride and partnership that defines Martin City makes an even bigger difference than you might think. It actually makes our neighborhood safer, according to KCPD Community Interaction Officers Mary McCall and Aaron Whitehead — both specifically assigned to keeping an eye on our area.
“It’s like working in a small town,” says McCall. “Business owners here look out for each other. They work directly with us to keep the area safe, and that makes everything better. You know, as police officers, it’s our job to do all we can to help, but our effort goes so much farther when we’re coordinating with people who are truly invested in protecting their community.”
Whitehead agrees. “We can help with problems, but a really powerful way of preventing them is doing what Martin City is now doing so well; taking pride in their community by keeping it clean and making it look good.”
The number of businesses in Martin City has swelled to well over 80 — far too many to recognize here. But we are thankful for each and every one. Please browse our business directory to discover them all. And the next time you’re in our neighborhood, let us know you see what we’re about, and how we’re continuing a tradition that’s unique, authentic, and as classic as the trains passing through.
“Consider us your neighbors,” says Debbie Beachner, owner of Gilded Lily, a retail boutique inside an historic house on 135th Street. “We’re here for you, ready to help any way we can. That’s what neighbors are for.”