Pending Sale of Crossroads Building Housing YJ’s Stirs ‘Hate Mail’

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The owner of the building housing YJ's Snack Bar says its named after a former Korean owner, not a 1920s figure.

By Kevin Collison

The pending sale of the building housing longtime Crossroads favorite YJ’s Snack Bar has stirred up strong passions, prompting the expected buyer and current owner of the property to speak out.

“There’s so much misinformation out there,” said Spencer Sight, whose father Dan Sight has a contract to buy the building on the northeast corner of Wyandotte and 18th streets.

“It’s important for people to realize we’re from here and we want to see the city flourish. We’re committed to the creative community and the arts.”

Two weeks ago, when CityScene KC first reported the sale agreement, the Sights and the building’s current owners, Carol Crater and Paul Hilpman, wanted to wait until the deal closed June 25 before discussing the transaction.

But artist David Ford, whose run YJ’s since 1999 and has decided to relocate because of the sale, did agree to an interview.

Ford was critical of the deal, saying that while he respected Crater and Hilpman, he thought they were making a poor business decision.

Artist David Ford has run YJ’s Snack Bar for 20 years and lives in a suite of rooms upstairs. He’s organized a raucous Mardi Gras celebration on 18th street for many years.

He also proclaimed what his presence at YJ’s and the Crossroads funky cultural phenomena it has sparked has meant to the area.

“I have some sense of self,” Ford said in the earlier interview “Half the value of this building came from what I’ve been doing…The change is relatively profound and it’s been the investment of all my life.”

Ford is relocating YJ’s a couple blocks farther west to 1746 Washington, space formerly occupied by Sylvia’s Deli.

In a call-in to the KCUR Central Standard program Wednesday, he was upbeat about the move, saying “we’ll make more history.”

Spencer Sight acknowledged Ford has been a major influence in helping create the bohemian, free-spirited reputation of Crossroads Art District, at least that stretch of it on 18th Street between Baltimore and Wyandotte where the building is located.

But he emphasized Ford’s decision to leave his current place at 128 W. 18th St. to new quarters farther west on 18th Street was his decision alone.

“It was a surprise to us that YJ’s is leaving,” Sight said. “Neither us or the previous owners encouraged or insinuated to make them want to leave.

“The building has a lengthy list of repairs that has to be tended to,” he added.

“We need to fix what’s broken, yet we look forward to preserving what makes the building a unique gem in the city.”

Sight will be overseeing the property when the deal closes. His background is in buying and renovating houses.

Sight said the Windhorse tattoo parlor at 1717 Wyandotte is departing the building for Westport, but that move was underway before the transaction.

Ford not only ran YJ’s, but lived upstairs in a suite of rooms and also had a studio in the building.

Sight will be overseeing the new property when the deal closes. His background is in buying and renovating houses.

Carol Crater still doesn’t want to discuss the pending sale, but did want to correct Ford’s account of how YJ’s got its name. She has owned the property since 1979.

She said the cafe wasn’t named after some 1920s figure nicknamed Young Johnny, as Ford claimed, but after a Korean-American immigrant who opened the place in the early 1980s named Yoon Jueng.

Crater also confirmed that Ford began managing the building about 10 years ago and his responsibilities included handling tenants and maintenance.

Sight said since the news came out about the pending sale and Ford’s account of his experience, the blowback has been ferocious.

“We’ve gotten trolled online and have received a lot of hate mail,” he said. “It’s not fair to Carol and Paul, and it’s not fair to us.”

The two-story building at 18th and Wyandotte opened in 1923 as part of the Film Row district.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I regularly lunched at the original Korean YJ’s deli during the 80’s and 90’s. While Ford retained the YJ’s name, the menu and ambiance he created were wonderful improvements for the neighborhood. Tom

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