Business owner follows in mentor’s footsteps to create new restaurant.
Designed as a burger joint, and then replaced by a bakery, the little building on the east side of Holmes Road near the train tracks has transformed yet again. P.S. Coffee & Drive-Thru features quick service, high-quality java, and a familiar menu that’s welcome news in our neighborhood.
“We’re building on what Martin City Coffee did so well, and making it even better, from the coffee to the food,” says owner, Phil Stegner. “Everyone’s been so supportive and happy to see us open our doors. We’re not going to disappoint them.”
It took about six weeks to pivot and fill the void left by Martin City Coffee. Stegner had to wait for City inspections, new signs, and a few other key pieces to fall into place. Patience doesn’t come easy for him. Stegner is full of energy and ambition, and he’s been training for this moment for a long time as a star barista and manager at Martin City Coffee.
“I made so many friends and developed loyal customer relationships,” says Stegner, reflecting on the rewards of his reputation. “It’s so nice to see everyone following me to my own business. I’m just so thankful for all the encouragement as I settle in and get things going.”
As P.S. Coffee opens, Stegner is bouncing around at the speed of caffeine, giving careful attention to it all — the food, the coffee, the drive-thru, the dining room, and the service. Cars are circling, espresso steam is in the air, and fresh tortillas are rolling out of the kitchen. There’s a new vibe emanating from 13109 Holmes Road, and Phil Stegner believes it’s the start of something great for his business and the Martin City neighborhood.
“I couldn’t ask for a better launch,” says Stegner. “I’m getting valuable guidance and I’m jumping right in with my own ideas for making this all it can be.”
One Coffee Shop Door Closes and Another Opens.
The now closed Martin City Coffee, and its popular owner, Penny Romero, were beloved in our neighborhood. Romero put her heart and soul into her business, but it was just one of several businesses dividing her attention. When she decided to shut it down to focus on other endeavors, there was plenty of heartbreak all the way around. But when Stegner stepped up with a willingness to pick up where Martin City Coffee left off, her eyes lit up.
“She was very surprised and excited,” Stegner recalls. “And she was so encouraging. Penny wasted no time sitting down with me to help me map out my launch. She manages multiple businesses and really knows what she’s doing. I know food and coffee, but I’m not as experienced with running a business, so she was a perfect match as my mentor.”
Stegner knows he has big shoes to fill with P.S. Coffee. He loved helping Romero build Martin City Coffee from the start, and knew everything about its day-to-day operations, customer flow, and customer service. But now things are different and he’s raising the bar.
“I’m a business owner now, and when you own a business, you work differently. You serve people differently. You look at everything differently. I’ve never had this kind of opportunity before, and it feels so right. I’m ready to throw myself into it.”
Taking ‘Fast Food’ to a New Level.
First, let’s be clear about what P.S. Coffee is not. It’s not part of a chain of little huts with a few coffee basics and no food. And it’s not a glossy, big brand shop offering frozen, pre-packaged food that’s microwaved on the fly. It’s not Martin City Coffee either. But make no mistake, Martin City Coffee is definitely part of its DNA. Stegner says he learned a lot from Martin City Coffee, and will stick with its strengths while blending in his own priorities.
For example, Stegner will stop shipping in high-end coffee beans from Chicago. Instead, he’s shopping for beans that are just as ultra-premium, but available locally. “Local, local, local. That’s what it’s all about for me. We’ve got some fantastic businesses in the area who are doing amazing things with coffee beans, and I’m connecting with them.”
He’s wasting no time doing his homework in the search for passionate roasters who share his vision and values. And he’s developing ideas for showcasing their work inside P.S. Coffee to give them the recognition they deserve.
“I want to know how I can help small roasters around here grow, and how they can help me grow. When you look at the big picture, we’re all in this together. I don’t want a quiet wholesaler relationship with my suppliers. I want to celebrate them openly to my customers.”
When it comes to food, expect favorites from the menu you loved at Martin City Coffee. Stegner says most items, including those amazing burritos, will be made inside P.S. Coffee and offered daily. “The building’s old bakery infrastructure offers us just what we need, including a kitchen where we can keep cooking popular menu items and experimenting with new ones. A lot of coffee businesses don’t have that advantage.”
Get Stegner talking about the food at P.S. Coffee and he’ll sit up, lean forward, and dive right into what he expects will set his business apart. “I really want to change what you think of ‘fast casual’ dining. I want to prove to you that you can get a quick meal without sacrificing quality. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can have both. I’m thinking everything through, and taking a hard look at how we can integrate more healthy, premium ingredients into our recipes.”
For Stegner, it’s not just a business strategy or branding exercise. It’s a dream that he finally has a chance to realize. “I love offering healthy food. I look at it as feeding someone, not just serving them a product. I want to give them food that’s good for them, from taste to nutrition. I believe in handmade when possible, blending spices, and letting things marinate.”
He’s putting top selling food from the old coffee shop’s menu under the microscope, making adjustments, and creating room for new ideas. Love avocado toast? Imagine adding sauteed tomatoes, feta cheese, and maybe a balsamic glaze on top. Just one example of what he’s thinking and where the menu could be going. “Everything is going to get better. That’s my intention.”
Four years at the old coffee shop allowed Stegner to study drive-thru operations, from fluctuations in volume and flow to the way employees engage customers through the window. He intends to make improvements there, too. “Efficiency and friendliness are everything. We’re going to keep working on that to get it right. I know how much it matters to customers.”
The interior dining space at P.S. Coffee offers more room than you might expect. Stegner has worked hard to optimize every inch. Take a seat inside and you’ll be rewarded by a cozy, comfortable feeling amid an abundance of greenery as fresh as the food. Stegner is keeping the patio out front. In fact, he’s already kicking around ideas for jazzing it up.
“I’m looking at doing some things out front that will make it more inviting and interesting. All of it — the coffee, the food, the drive-thru, the sense of place. It all needs to come together for an experience that’s unlike other coffee spaces.”
Developing a Taste for Martin City.
Phil Stegner is no stranger to Martin City. He spent a good part of his life growing up in South Kansas City and passed through our neighborhood many times. His background is spiced by lengthy stretches of time in Hawaii and California, but his coffee career has been cultivated here in KC.
“I’ve been working in coffee shops for over a decade, since I was about 20 years old. I’ve worked in shops from Lenexa to Lee’s Summit. I joined Martin City Coffee before it even opened and became convinced that I really know what I’m doing.”
Stegner was a sponge at Martin City Coffee, always wanting to learn more, master processes, and find new ways to make the business better. He naturally evolved into Romero’s right hand, helping to establish production standards and implementing ideas for improving consistency. “It’s been quite a training ground. I mean, Penny really did things right and was always open to new ideas. I learned so much from her about business, and she allowed me to bring my strengths to the table too.”
When you spend a few minutes talking with Phil Stegner, you feel like you’re talking to someone who understands day-to-day life in Martin City. He knows what connects people in our community, and has a good feel for what makes it special.
“Oh I love it. Martin City is a small community with a big heart,” says Stegner, flashing the smile that signals his charm. “I’m delighted to see my loyal customers when I’m in other restaurants, retail shops, and places like Lukas Wine and Spirits Superstore. I’m a regular at MC CrossFit, and many people who work out there love getting their coffee over here.”
P.S. Coffee on Holmes Road may seem like the culmination of Stegner’s ambition, but it could be just the beginning. He imagines opening other locations and maybe even a restaurant that revolves around those tortillas that make his burritos so popular.
“I’d like to create different locations and maybe different brands that can all feed off each other. I mean, I truly believe that I can develop something with unique appeal. And there’s no better place to start than Martin City, a neighborhood that’s like no other and a hub for so many people who come and go across South Kansas City.”
Good luck, Phil! We’re pulling for you! Thank you for investing in Martin City and stepping up to be another original source of our hometown pride.