Wet your whistle and get ready, sodaheads. Craft soda is coming to Legends at Village West. Luke Thompson and Matt Baysinger, the masterminds behind Mass Street Soda in Lawrence, are set to open KC Soda Company (1843 Village West Parkway, Suite C-127, Kansas City, Kansas) soon.
Recently, Thompson, Baysinger and fellow business partner Ryan Henrich have had their hands full. Earlier this spring, they launched Breakout KC, a new live-action escape room game business in the River Market. Thompson and Baysinger are now putting the finishing touches on their soda retail space.
“It is taking a little bit longer, due to us being at Breakout KC more than anticipated,” says Baysinger. “I think a late June opening is feasible. Once the interior finish is done, all we have to do is move in the soda and then open.”
Mass Street Soda currently stocks more than 1,300 varieties of soda. Baysinger forecasts that KC Soda will carry that much in stock and likely more. “Having two stores allows us to have a little bit more buying power,” says Baysinger. “We can take the risk and buy some soda that has been tough for us to get in the past. We hope to be around 1,500 varieties by the end of the year.”
KC Soda will also seize an opportunity in an underserved aspect of the local beverage market – handcrafted soda. Their own line of housemade soda is a dream soon to be realized.
“KC has been thriving in many areas. KC’s coffee game is strong with places like Thou Mayest, Oddly Correct, Parisi, The Roasterie, and Quay. This list could go on forever,” says Thompson. “Craft beers have really taken off in the past few years, in addition to Boulevard obviously being the main player. We love soda and we love KC. We want to pair those two together and offer high-quality glass-bottled craft sodas that are made in KC. We have a lot of dreams. Sometimes those dreams take a little bit more time to come to fruition, but we’re hoping to get out our first tester sodas before the end of the year.”
Later this summer, KC Soda plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in late July or early August. The campaign, estimated to be in the $20,000–30,000 range, will ideally fund the homemade soda line.
KC Soda is not ready to divulge any specific flavor combinations in their line while they are in the testing phase. Baysinger did confirm some staples that will be available.
“Every soda maker has a root beer and a cream soda,” says Baysinger. “Ginger beer is incredibly popular right now and makes for a good mixer. Certain fruit sodas are often paired with barbeque.”
For now, they remain focused on using quality ingredients to produce a distinct product.
“We don’t want to just slap together some sugary syrup with carbonated water like some of the recent soda companies that have been popping up lately,” says Baysinger. “I’d rather pay a little more for better ingredients and spend a little longer on the flavor formulation to make sure we have everything right before we bring them to market. There are also many KC-based companies that we’ll try and collaborate with in the future to put some twists on the classic soda flavors.”
Currently, the partners are testing small batches with different flavors and ingredients.
“We want our sodas to be unique. With Mass Street Soda, we can see what kinds of flavors sell well and what brands sell well,” says Thompson. “We take all of that information to work on the flavors and branding that will hopefully lead to a successful soda line.”
Initially, KC Soda will produce small volumes of soda. They do not have a company-owned bottling line in mind for the near future.
“Once we have our flavor formulation completed, we’ll have an exact recipe for our flavors,” says Baysinger. “We’re working with a few bottlers around the area that are open to bottling the soda for us on contract for now. This will allow us to test the market and see if the demand is out there for our soda without investing a large sum of money on a full bottling line.”
The bottler would use KC Soda’s bottles, labels, and soda recipes to bottle soda under the brand name. Baysinger says, “We are looking at locations near downtown, mainly the East and West Bottoms, for a future bottling site.”
Opening KC Soda happened sooner than expected for the entrepreneurs. Thompson and Baysinger didn’t expect to have a second shop until a few years after they opened the year-old Mass Street Soda in Lawrence. They chose the Legends location for key reasons.
“Mass Street Soda was received so well by Lawrence and its visitors that we felt comfortable expanding into KC for our second store,” says Thompson. “We looked at about five different locations in the KC metro area. Mass Street is a very walkable area. We wanted our KC store to be in a walkable district as well. There are only so many of those in KC.”
Baysinger and Thompson were eager to open KC Soda with an original target day in May.
“Everything always takes more time to create than what we expect,” says Thompson. We’re working long hours to get everything off the ground.”
Baysinger adds, “With Breakout KC and KC Soda Co., we want to bring unique businesses to Kansas City that are great experiences for KC families. Also, they’ll create an impression on visitors to KC and make people want to come back. In the past few years, the secret about KC has spread to the rest of the country. It’s important that we collaborate with other area entrepreneurs to create and keep innovative local businesses thriving.”[Images via KC Soda Company]