With one of the top stories among Kansas City media yesterday being the announcement that IKEA would be adding a new location in the area (to be opening Fall 2014), this got me thinking about some of my favorite businesses that have migrated to Kansas City to join me since I moved out here back in 2000.
My earliest memories of Chick-Fil-A was occasionally getting to stop and get food from there at the foot court of Chesterfield Mall way back in the day. That’s all they were to my young mind, was mall food. My first experience with a FSU (Free-Standing Unit) store was on a roadtrip to Colorado back in 2003, and it was a completely new experience for me. Years later, Chick-Fil-A built their first KC area store in Olathe, and expanded from there. Now, a treat that I only got every once in a while as a kid is now literally walking distance (by my standards) from where I currently live. Oh, and the Chick-Fil-A sauce (a 1/1/1 blend of barbeque sauce, ranch and honey mustard) is second to NONE.
Summer of 1996 – after having gone there for many years growing up, I got my first job at Jack In The Box, and would work there through my entire senior year of high school. You’d think that working at a restaurant that long would burn you out on their food, but this wasn’t the case with me. I never got tired of the variety, and still love it. In late October of 2010, after decades of being absent from the region, Jack In The Box opened up their first store in Kansas City, Kansas. I was there along with my daughter for an invite-only sneak preview 3 days before it opened. To me, that was a great feeling. Part of my childhood and an integral part of my teen years had come to join me here, and the sourdough burgers and tacos are just as delicious now as they ever were.
Donuts are a treat. Always. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are. This also applies as a thirty-something. Few things restaurant-wise made me happier than getting the word that Dunkin Donuts would be setting up shop around Kansas City. They chose south Overland Park for their first location, which opened up in November 2009. My fiancee and I were among those waiting outside the store well before their 5am launch for the store’s grand opening, and have a great story to tell involving the Kansas City Royals’ George Brett. We also did the same for DD’s second store’s grand opening in May 2010, and had some small-talk with Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli. They’ve opened two more stores since then, and have another currently under construction not too far from my office. I won’t be there waiting for them to open that morning, but I’ll definitely be stopping by for some opening day business.
A major wave-producer for Kansas City was the announcement of Trader Joe’s coming, and setting up not one, but two locations. I’d been familiar with them from St. Louis, as well as them being one of my go-to shops when I’d fly out to Los Angeles. I always stayed in the same general area, and there was a Trader Joe’s close enough to walk to. Both stores have been opened for a while now, and are still doing booming business – except for that peanut butter recall from last week, but I digress.
Which brings us to the now. Kansas City residents no longer will have to drive up to Minneapolis, west to Denver, or east to Chicago to go visit an IKEA store. a 50+ thousand square foot location is coming to US. This will easily bring in visitors from multiple states who will have this as their (new) closest location to travel to for shopping. Multiple jobs will be created construction-wise for this project, and even more will be created for store operations itself. This is good.
For me, though, there’s still one very large void that needs filled. Another piece of my life that is still currently absent. That void would be White Castle. They originated in Wichita, KS – and don’t have a single location there anymore. There were about half a dozen locations around Kansas City when I moved out here from St. Louis, and the following year, they all closed down, one by one. White Castle is still a guaranteed visit every time I go back home, and their single store in Columbia MO is perfect for a sack of sliders on the go. My daughter had her first sliders at the Columbia store back in July, following in her father’s footsteps of early White Castle childhood. If they ever do decide to return to Kansas City, this city may very well truly feel like the old home to me, chain restaurant food-wise.