An Idea Whose Time Has Come
The Black Pantry Kansas City has the best tag line – “Kansas City’s Dopest General Store.” Owner Brian Roberts saw the need in 2019 and 2020 for a one-stop-shop for consumers to find products sold by Black-owned and run businesses. “Wouldn’t it be convenient to have one place to shop instead of looking all over town,” he mused. One place to sell food, body care products, art, home goods, books, and other essentials was his dream… and make the items produced by Black entrepreneurs easy to find and buy.
Originally, the idea seemed to fit well with the pop-up store concept. Set up somewhere one weekend, move to another spot the next weekend. But, the good folks at Made in KC – Tyler Enders, Keith Bradley, and Thomas McIntyre – offered Brian a space at their new location-in-the-works on “Martini Corner” on 31st Street. While Brian thought he might need a bit more time to flesh out the idea, the overture was too good to pass up… and we all know what they say about opportunity knocking.
On a bright mid-April Saturday morning we found Brian up on a ladder, in his new space with very high ceilings, hanging a piece of art to replace the one that had just been sold. Even he seemed a bit dazed that he had a shop up and running in such a short period of time – his last pop-ups had just been a few weeks prior. But, he is also enthusiastic about promoting and supporting goods from Black-owned businesses. “This is fun, and a lot of work!” A steady stream of vendors and customers were making their way through the shop and setting up products and buying products in equal measure. The cash/wrap is run by Made in KC, and their merchandise transitions seamlessly around the counter to segue into The Black Pantry.
The products featured at The Black Pantry are intriguing, so let’s start with the food offerings. There is a line of made-from-scratch, healthy granola from Oh Mazing, owned by Stephanie Williams, who creates all of her own recipes. Flavors include cranberry orange, lemon bar, oatmeal raisin, and original, all with colorful, tempting packaging. Pipcorn Heirloom Snacks literally passes down heirloom seeds from Indiana to make superior taste and nutrition while helping the environment. Their line includes popcorn, cheese balls, corn dippers, snack crackers, and crunchies. Flavors include sea salt, truffle, jalapeño cheddar, and lime zest – we can’t wait to try the lime zest! Also sold are coffees, teas, cookies, salsa, barbeque sauce, dry rubs, and raw honey.
In the home goods area, we found soy candles by Freres Branchiaux, hand poured, vegan, scented candles produced by the Gill brothers – Collin, Ryan, and Austin from Washington, D.C. Creative scents include Wakanda Forever, green lavender, whiskey sweet, vanilla spice, and our personal favorite, lime cotton. (We bought lime cotton, and it is sublime, clean, slightly citrus, and not too much – if you know what we mean.) The brothers also donate 10 percent of proceeds to homeless shelters, nationwide.
In the body care section, we found Trinity Hills Co., a line of men’s natural care products. Founded in Philadelphia in 2016, this line seeks to “help men improve their grooming needs and enhance their powerful masculinity.” This is done through a line of beard kits, face care, hair care, and body care with natural ingredients and no harm done to the environment. We also found a product from the Golde line – care products started in Brooklyn in 2017 to provide superfoods in different formats. From face masks (papaya bright) to smoothie boosters (pure matcha or cacao turmeric latte blend), these products seem to promote de-stressing and de-bloating (as they put it).
The book section is particularly interesting with Black-authored options, including Glory, Magical Visions of Black Beauty by Kahran and Regis Bethencourt; Trap Kitchen – Bangin’ Recipes From Compton by Malachi Jenkins and Roberto Smith with Marisa Mendez; The Marathon Don’t Stop, The Life and Times of Nipsey Hussle by Rob Kenner; and two children’s books, Little Legends – Exceptional Men in Black History and Little Leaders – Bold Women in Black History both by Vashti Harrison.
This colorful, eclectic corner market is a shopping delight in Midtown. While shopping at The Black Pantry, make sure to also pick up a few of our favorite Made in KC items. Oh, and grab a martini nearby.
Also featured in the May 29, 2021 issue of The Independent.
Photo Credit: Bailey Pianalto Photography
By Anne Potter Russ
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