In this ongoing series we will share stories of customers and what they did to adapt to major changes in 2020.
Once upon a time, there was a boy who grew up on a 150 acre organic farm in St. Joseph, Missouri. There was a restaurant on this farm and he learned all aspects of it, from dishwashing, to cooking, to serving. Before too long, that boy, Amante Domingo, made his way down to Kansas City. While he had a passion for cooking, he had worked and trained as a photographer and was working on the management side of restaurants when he met Heather White. Heather came to Kansas City from much further away that St. Joseph: she’s from Vancouver, British Columbia. Heather was on a restaurant consulting project with Amante and they bonded over their love of food (Heather has a baking background) and a desire to do something special with food in Kansas City.
They started with catering. They wanted to make simple, straightforward food and the quality of the box lunches they put together got people talking. Soon enough they were being booked for events and weddings. The restaurant organically grew out of a desire to essentially create an ongoing supper club, featuring all the delicious things the team was grilling up on the in-house Argentinian fire table.
Needless to say, all the buzz they had created since opening their doors in February 2017 meant that 2020 was set to be their best year ever; the first two months of 2020 were 30% better than the 2019 numbers. But as news of coronavirus started to percolate in early 2020, Amante and Heather didn’t shut their doors, but introduced curbside “Black Glove service” to emphasize the hygiene they were using in cooking and packaging the food. While they had originally been focused on catering and lunch, they extended their hours to cover dinner and did the photography and web design to adapt to the changing situation. Within a week the website was ready to take takeout orders.
The team ran dinner specials each night and didn’t just sell those, but anything they had on hand that needed to go, from cheese and eggs to toilet paper and cleaning supplies. They even became a venue for their fellow business owners to sell their wares, including flowers. This was particularly poignant given the building’s history: the previous tenant was Russell Florists and had been there for decades. The simplicity in the food and the rustic decor you’ll find inside led to their adopting the old name of the florist but transforming it into a restaurant.
The Russell’s catering background meant that they already knew how to package the food well for takeout. One day Dan Bolen came through to pick up some food (cigar in hand, we are told). After finding out a bit about what they were doing to pivot their business, Dan asked about PPP. Amante and Heather shared that their application at the big corporate bank down the street seemed to be stalling. Needless to say, Dan encouraged them to apply with us and they got a loan in late May 2020 (which has since been forgiven). That loan gave them an opportunity to get to know us, our style of banking, and the way we do business, and we’re proud to say that we now have the business accounts for the restaurant as well.
When we asked them how they were feeling about 2021, they first shared that 2020 ended up only being 10% down from 2019 when all was said and done. Then they shared that they are opening a new restaurant, Taylor, in June. This is apart from a design firm, RSL Design, that has sprung from their work together on the Russell. Needless to say, they and their team have not just weathered 2020, but have skillfully adapted. As a result, 2021 looks bright.
If you’re curious about what to try when you go to the restaurant at 3141 Main (they are open for dine-in) or order takeout, you can try their Roasted Root salad (mixed greens, sweet potatoes, beets, hickory-smoked almonds, goat cheese, molasses vinaigrette) to go with ribs or a ribeye, or a half-chicken or cedar-planked salmon, among many other delicious offerings. If you’ve still got room for dessert, Heather’s cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and other baked goods will finish out the meal perfectly.
For other stories in the Coping with Covid series, click here.
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