By Kevin Collison
The historic Luzier Building at 31st and Gillham, a 1920s, terra cotta jewel box next to the big, concrete Costco, is about to be fully reborn with its anchor tenant an Australian-inspired café and bakery.
The two-story building at 3216 Gillham Plaza is the latest and toughest restoration project by urban developer Butch Rigby.
“The building is the most complicated and challenging renovation we’ve ever done,” Rigby said. “If there was ever a testimonial to the need for historic tax credits in Missouri, this is it.”
The brick building, done in Spanish Colonial Revival Style and richly adorned with ceramic tile and terra cotta, is actually two buildings that were connected in 1933 for the Luzier cosmetics company.
The north side was designed by Hoit, Price & Barnes, originally for the Martha Washington Candy Co., and opened in 1927.
The south side was designed by Nelle Peters, a pioneering woman architect, opened in 1928, according to its historic tax credit application prepared by Cydney Milstein of Architectural and Historical Research.
The building barely escaped the wrecking ball in 2000 when the Costco store was built, although it did have part of its rear section razed for that project.
Rigby bought it in 2016 and he estimated the entire project has cost $2.5 million.
It will soon be the home of Billie’s Grocery, a restaurant and bakery owned by Robin Krause, who also runs the Unbakery & Juicery at 634 E. 63rd St. and formerly owned the Filling Station just down the street at 2980 McGee.
Krause said the new, 4,000 square-foot space will allow her to continue to nourish her passion for healthy living and healthy food. Her other credentials include nutritional therapist practitioner, herbalist, health coach and yoga instructor.
“I love food and that’s how I’ll be able to help people,” she said. “Rather than coaching, I’ll feed people.”
She named her new restaurant after her father.
“Billie was my my Dad and I always wanted to open a restaurant with him, but he passed away from a heart attack five years ago,” she said. “That’s why I started my interest in health and wellness.”
The menu will be inspired by the beachy “lean, clean and brighter” side of Australian cusine with some LA thrown in. Dishes include Sesame Ginger Watermelon, Epic Wedge Salad, and Lemon Grass Coconut Shrimp Bowl.
The full bakery’s fare will include gluten-free desserts and baguettes. There also will be to-go charcuterie boards, and selection of wines, beers and a limited cocktail menu. An outdoor patio also is part of the plan.
And Billie’s Grocery’s offerings will include cooking classes and wellness workshops.
Krause believes her new place will attract customers who know her from the Unbakery and Filling Station, as well as nearby residents. It’s close to the burgeoning Armour Boulevard neighborhood, Crown Center and Hospital Hill.
Hours will be Mondays through Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Krause plans to open Billie’s Grocery about April 1. It’s website, billiesgrocery.com, is expected to be live in mid-March.
In addition to the restaurant, the Luzier Building has attracted several other tenants: TJP Strategies, a political consulting firm; Hand and Land; KC Well Co., a therapist group, and Phare, a photography collective.
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