The floor once jumped at 1706 Baltimore Avenue with plates of frog legs and steaks being served up alongside jazz. More than 80 years ago, it was known as The Stork Club, the self-billed “K.C.’s Finest Supper Club.”
Dinner is about to be served again. Aaron Prater and Ryan Wing are partners in The Sundry – a new market and kitchen that they plan to open in the former Stork Club space by November 1.
“Local food needs to be more convenient,” Prater says. “Farmers markets are great, but what if you’re busy Friday? What do you do Tuesday and Thursday? Local food and good food are one and the same. It shouldn’t be a scavenger hunt to eat well.”
The partners are currently working on building out the space, which held a series of nightclubs (The Paramount Club and The Eighty-Five Club) and was once home to United Artists. The grocery and kitchen will be in 3,500 square feet on the first floor, and they may hold classes in the 1,300 square feet they’ve also leased on the second floor.
“This is something that has the potential to be really important to Kansas City,” Wing says. “This isn’t about Aaron or I, it’s about putting the spotlight on Kansas City and all the really cool food stuff here.”
The market will be full-service with bread, dairy, produce and meat sections. The idea is to stock “local, awesome,” goods first, but widen the net in the case of seafood or other items that aren’t made or grown in the region.
“We want to take the mystery and headache out of grocery shopping,” Prater says.
Wing and Prater met while working at Johnson County Community College. Wing is a senior sustainability analyst, who had received a grant from the Mid-America Regional Council and Department of Energy to help the local hospitality industry improve their efficiency through modifications of their space. He found a willing partner in Prater – an associate culinary professor at JCCC.
Over the course of the project, the two discovered a shared vision for their own future centered on a market that highlighted local food producers in Kansas City. Prater had been toying with the idea of launching a charcuterie business – he’s developed an informal barter system with Christopher Elbow and the Boulevard Brewing Company over the years – trading his hams and bacon for chocolate and beer.
“I thought of good food made locally by hand,” Prater says. “Where you look in back and say, ‘oh, that’s the guy that made my bologna.’”
After Prater catered Wing’s wedding, the two talked about how to make local and sustainable goods more readily available.
“We don’t want it to be special occasion food. As a teacher, I see so many people every day that want to eat really good food, but don’t know how to cook. People want to eat better, but they don’t know how and they don’t where to start,” Prater says.
They spent the past two years developing a business plan and looking for a spot to build The Sundry.
“We knew we could only do it the right way from the ground up,” Wing says. “One of the main efficiencies [of The Sundry] is that we pair the market with the kitchen and we’ve eliminated the food waste that most grocery stores have.”
The kitchen will focus on prepared goods: stocks, sauces and eat-and-heat meals. Prater says, “we know that people might want to do beef bourguignon, but don’t have three days to make it.” They’ll also have a few items for lunch and dinner on the go (the shop will have a few seats inside).
“The kitchen can help educate people. If you get this from the market, it can become this,” Wing says.
Prater intends to have daily specials, like a red beans and rice dish based on his New Orleans heritage. They’ll also make salads, soups, risottos and sandwiches.
“The one thing that we’ve really been working on is our pastrami. It’s served on classic light Jewish rye with our own deli mustard and a half-sour pickle. We want to do great things that nobody does,” Prater says.
That pastrami is brisket rubbed with black pepper, coriander, dry garlic, mustard seed and clove. After sitting in a brine of salt, sugar, curing salts and pickling spices (clove, bay leaves, fennel seed, chili pepper), It’s smoked for five hours and steamed for five hours until the “fat becomes so meltingly smooth it just disappears.”
For dinner, Prater points to his meatloaf – a “beautiful mix of beef, pork, onion, garlic, sage and thyme.” The loaves will be available raw or cooked, and people will be able to buy them by the slice, in addition to the whole loaf. The dinner choices will be offered by serving size to accommodate single and family shoppers.
The plan is for The Sundry to be open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and adjust the weekend hours to their customers.
“We want to support the city that supports us,” Wing says.[Building image via Lauren Salvini]