By Kevin Collison
Parlor, the new East Crossroads food hall, has crushed the expectations of its Atlanta-based developer its first couple of weeks of operation, quickly becoming the hip dining spot for thousands.
“It blew our minds,” said Davis Engle of Meriwether Companies. “We exceeded our revenue projections in the first week by double.
“We had 4,000- to 5,000 people the first weekend, and the second weekend was larger than the grand opening.”
And yes, the voracious appetite that opening weekend of Sept. 28 literally shut Parlor down the following Monday. Its seven independent restaurateurs couldn’t restock their kitchens fast enough.
“It’s tough getting food delivery in Kansas City,” Engle said. “You can only get deliveries two or three times a week. That’s part of the reason we ran out of food.
“I don’t know how we could have prepared better.”
In the six months since CityScene KC first reported Parlor was coming to town, Engle has had the pleasure to eat his way, or “curating” as he calls it, toward choosing which chefs would be the first to set up shop at parlor.
“We had 175 applicants for seven spaces,” he said. “Most of the tenants we went with were word-of-mouth, friends of friends. We curated by sampling their food.
“We didn’t want just another burger and fries concept. We wanted to offer a variety of foods you can’t get anywhere else.
“We completed all seven leases ranging from Scandinavian street food to Japanese okonoimiyka (pancakes).”
For a start-up investment of $10,000 to $15,000, a “chef partner” was able to open their own restaurant in a ready-to-go kitchen furnished by Parlor as compared to the hundreds of thousands it costs for a conventional place. The monthly rent is about $1,800.
It allowed Rachel Rinas to realize her dream of opening up her own place, Karbon. Rinas had been a chef at several local restaurants but longed to be her own boss.
“I’d given up on starting my own business,” she said. “This restaurant is all me, 100 percent my favorite things.”
Rinas connected with Engle through Alex Pope of Local Pig. She’d knew Pope after doing some pop-up events with him. Engle stopped by her home to sample her cooking and that was all it took.
“Karbon means charcoal in Turkish and Spanish,” she said. “A lot of my influence is eastern Mediterranean and Central America, I like charred, spicy things.”
“It’s been pretty insane getting used to the new environment and we’ve had great response about the flavors of our food.”
The only negative feedback has been some complaints about her prices, but Rinas said it won’t change her approach.
“I refuse to sacrifice quality and not pay my employees a living wage,” she said.
Engle said sales at Parlor’s restaurant tenants have been phenomenal so far, averaging about $6,000 daily for a 145 square-foot kitchen on weekends. One restaurant hit $7,200 in one day.
One mild surprise at Parlor has been the large number of suburbanites who’ve flocked to its location at 1707 Locust.
Engle said he’d like to see more downtown folks make it a regular spot, but knows the surrounding area still hasn’t seen the residential development activity that’s occurred elsewhere downtown.
“We want to expand beyond being a weekend spot to become the living room of downtown and the Crossroads,” he said. “We knew we’d be early for the neighborhood.
“Crossroads is a great neighborhood without the bodies.”
That’s expected to change with at least four new Crossroads residential projects in the works or planned: the 350-unit East Crossroads apartment project; the 283-unit City Club apartments, and Copaken Brooks’ 126-unit ARTerra project nearing completion and the firm’s 132-unit apartment tower expected to break ground next month.
Engle said Parlor still has a few kinks to work out including educating diners about the need to self-bus their tables, all items except silverware, glasses and trays are biodegradable.
The food hall also has a new plan to get more people to use its bleacher seating area. This weekend, Parlor is setting up a 131-inch projection television so customers can watch the Chiefs game and other local sporting events.
And soon, Parlor will be expanding to Oklahoma City.
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