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|KCMag.com: NOSTALGIA AND HOSPITALITY|
STORY BY Kelly Cannon
PHOTOS BY Phil Kline
Finding a good old-fashioned Main Street—complete with a barbershop pole and smiling shopkeepers—isn’t as easy as it was in June Cleaver’s era. But lucky for Kansas City’s old souls, downtown Lee’s Summit offers nostalgia and hospitality preserved in each and every shop.
In 2010, downtown Lee’s Summit was honored with a Great American Main Street Award by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Today, it’s easy to see why. Rarely do you find a historic downtown that feels vibrant and new while maintaining the charm of yesteryear. Downtown Lee’s Summit has the sentiment, history and freshness to draw curious crowds and the goods and services to ensure repeat customers.
Downtown Lee’s Summit began its revitalization project in 1989 after years of neglect had left the area in disrepair and almost deserted. By the early ’90s, the city had a plan in place called “The Vision of the Heart,” which led to much-needed funding. Today, you can read about the history and see photos of the old downtown by a neon heart that glows above the city’s center. If you’re a history buff, visit the museum in the south end of the old train depot (220 S.E. Main St.), which houses photos of old Lee’s Summit and chronicles the history of the town, including the adventures of outlaw-turned-model citizen Cole Younger.
If history isn’t what strikes your fancy, there are all kinds of shopping, dining and entertainment options to explore. In downtown Lee’s Summit, more often than not, the person waiting on you is the owner of the establishment. Patrons get stellar customer service and the advantage of owners’ expert knowledge coupled with a small-town friendliness, which makes you feel like you’re shopping with friends.
Tony Marlow is a perfect example. As owners of the Red Door Wine Store (229 S.E. Main St.), he and his wife, Katelyn, have created a setting where you can pop in to pick up a bottle of wine to go with dinner, stop by for a glass to fortify yourself while shopping or just drop in for some puppy love from their store mascot Boston Terrier, Teensy. Marlow explains their philosophy by saying, “we’re very much about making wine unpretentious and fun.”
The Marlows achieve the unpretentious part by stocking all kinds of wine, starting at about $8 a bottle, and carrying smaller production wines like Caymus, Orin Swift and Urlar that you don’t find in big-box stores. The fun begins with beer and wine tastings on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. They also sell a few hard-to-find hard liquors and can tell you the difference in flavor between Hayman’s Old Tom and Hendrick’s gin and the proper way to mix each.
Just up the street, Doherty and Sullivan’s (213 S.E. Main St.) offers the same type of knowledge base about everything Irish. From beautiful Claddagh rings to Irish linen christening dresses, the shop brings the Irish flair to most anything. My favorite part of the store is the very back where you can buy real Irish tea by the pound, and there’s always a fresh-brewed pot for the sharing. When I was traveling through Ireland, my favorite part of the day was when we’d stop for a pot of tea in the afternoon to warm up and hold us until dinner. One sip of the tea at Doherty and Sullivan’s takes me back to any of a dozen Irish pubs I sat in with my own pot steaming in front of me.
Just down the street, A Thyme For Everything (229B S.E. Main St.) has a little bit of, well, everything, for any sort of culinary adventure. Check out its classes for adults and children, where you learn to cook in its state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen. December classes for kids include making and decorating gingerbread cookies and houses. Adults can take classes where they pick up the skills to impress their mothers-in-law during the holiday season with newfound cake-decorating artistry using fondants.
Superior customer service is also the key for Stacie Mayo, owner of Dress Code boutique (28 S.E. Third St.). Her small shop offers contemporary women’s apparel and accessories, but you’ll also want to ask Mayo about Closet Therapy, her business that allows her to offer her skills as a style and wardrobe consultant. Mayo’s expertise lies in helping her clients find their own style and then working with them to organize closets, shop smart and stay on track in the throes of a huge shoe sale at Halls.
Closet Therapy isn’t a girls-only club, either. Mayo gives men a chance to get out of the ruts of blue-toned dress shirts and pleated khakis. Even if you don’t want to take advantage of her services, you can benefit from others who have. The back part of Dress Code features consignment pieces that didn’t work in various clients’ closets but might be perfect for yours.
Ice Cream: Poppy’s Ice Cream and Coffee House (307 S.E. Douglas St.) makes its own ice cream in micro batches. Some flavors change according to the season, but there’s always gianduja (chocolate and hazelnut), which is all you need to know because once you have it, you’ll never order anything else.
French Fries: Just off the square sits a small restaurant that used to be a Hi Boy but is now a Shanghai Boy (501 S.W. Third St.). It offers both American and Chinese food, but whatever you order, make sure to get the french fries on the side. They’re fried in the same oil as the egg rolls, making them irresistible.