Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
by LANIE DRAPER
Simple, sophisticated, timeless. Nope, I’m not describing the infamous little black dress hanging in your closet. It’s actually the newest color to hit the home decor scene…matte black. Though this trend initially made its debut in fashion, it didn’t take long for it to cross over to home decor. Black finishes and accessories have always been cool and versatile, but the lack of shine offered by this new color gives this moody hue the perfect pinch of edginess. The best thing about this color is that it’s considered neutral. Whether paired with wood accents, shiny metallics, or pale pastels, matte black adds striking contrast while still creating balance and grounding your mix of styles.
Are you ready to add a little edge to your home? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Modern: Modern homes are known for their sleek and minimalistic style. Often times, there’s not a particular area that stands out more than another, but as a whole, the uniformity is breathtaking. For example, the use of large kitchen appliances against black cabinetry will create a totally flush look, making your kitchen resemble that of a five-star restaurant.
Just want to add a few modern touches to your home? Light fixtures such as matte-black pendants lined with gold are another small, yet mighty way to showcase this hot new trend in your home.
Farmhouse: Wall-mounted faucets are a staple in farmhouse bathrooms. And due to the rising popularity of matte black, manufactures have made faucets mimicking that of one found in an old farmhouse. This sleek color paired with a vintage- style faucet is a definite yes in my book!
Another gorgeous way to add some not-so-traditional farmhouse charm to your home is to paint a shiplap wall matte black as opposed to the traditional white. It will make a huge statement paired with white furniture and wood tables.
Traditional: Move over oil-rubbed bronze; matte black is in the house! Replacing old original hardware and light fixtures are a quick way to give your home a major spruce up.
Black pearl granite has been around for a long time. Though functional and pretty, it’s a little too “dressy” for some. Selecting a honed black countertop will take out the shine, allowing you to get a little more bold with your light fixtures.
Midcentury: Midcentury vibes are hot right now. Minimal furniture in vibrant colors, white walls, and geometric-shaped floor tile… hello, gorgeous! Lucky for us, tile shops now carry matte-black tile in fun shapes with a lot of dimension.
Furniture is another great way to add this trend to your home. Midcentury furniture pieces certainly stand out with their clean lines and unique legs. Try visiting your local vintage stores to find a pretty piece and start painting.
So, is it too early to say there’s a new black in town? Maybe. But it’s definite.ly a gorgeous trend and worth incorporating into your home.
by MARCI LINN | photo by JULIEN & LAMBERT PHOTOGRAPHIC SERVICES
Today’s contemporary spaces, more and more, seem to incorporate a little bit of Mother Nature right alongside the modern conveniences and styles. A great method of bringing some of that great outdoors to your indoors is to set up and maintain a miniature underwater habitat, complete with live, growing plants and aquatic life.
There are many methods of creating an underwater biotope, and tomes have been dedicated to the art and science of it, so please explore all those options if the idea strikes your fancy. For the sake of brevity, here’s a simple, inexpensive project to help get your thumb wet in the wonderful world of planted aquaria. Not only will you benefit from the soothing ambiance of a tiny underwater world, but you just might discover a whole new hobby that you really enjoy and move on to larger and more complex systems.
To set up a basic freshwater, planted aquarium, choose a small glass or acrylic container, be that a ready-made aquarium or a uniquely shaped clear glass or acrylic receptacle. Just ensure that your chosen aquarium has as large a surface area as possible, which enables more oxygen exchange at the surface (in other words, no tall, narrow vases, which, despite the popularity of the “vase betta” craze, are just not good for the fish).
Place your chosen habitat on a flat, level, sturdy surface near an electrical outlet. A countertop in the kitchen, a bar top, side table, dresser, nightstand, or even a bathroom vanity are all good choices. Add an aquatic soil substrate, formulated specifically for growing plants, about three inches deep.
Fill the tank carefully by pouring water gently into a saucer to avoid disturbing the soil. Any cloudiness will likely clear overnight. Be sure to add water conditioner to neutralize any chemicals added by the water treatment plant. Your local pet store can help you select the appropriate one for your area. Next, you’ll need to add a very small heater to keep water temperature stable. Again, your local pet store can assist you in choosing the correct-sized heater for your needs, based on size of your aquarium and your ambient room temperature.
Your mini aquatic jungle will require a suitable light source to help your plants thrive and grow. For the scope of this project, I recommend a small, clip-on, full-spectrum LED lamp. Long lasting, efficient, and cool running, they come in a vast array of styles, shapes, and colors to appeal to all tastes and can be purchased for less than $30. A simple air-driven sponge filter will complete your required equipment, which can be obtained for around $25.
Fill your aquarium with easy-to-grow, forgiving, hearty species such as the following:
• Shorter Plants: Java fern, Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana), Dwarf hairgrass (Eleocharis parvula), Anubias nana.
• Taller Plants: Bacopa caroliniana, Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis.)
• Free-floating plants: Water sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides), Marimo moss ball (Aegagropilalinnaei).
Plant utilizing the taller plants in the back and shorter plants in the front. Accessorize to your heart’s content: perhaps an Asian theme with little red bridge or a Buddha statue; a magical fairy garden; your child’s favorite cartoon character; an ever-changing holiday theme; or a scattering of pretty trinkets from your travels, like seashells, pebbles, or driftwood (fish safe, of course).
Mini aquariums are rather limited in what types and the numbers of fish they can house, but some possible options, depending on your container’s water volume and surface area, are small tetras, rasboras, endlers guppies, killifish, dwarf cories, or tiny ornamental shrimp, which all come in an kaleidoscope of patterns and colors! A single male betta is also a great choice, often becoming so tame it will take food from your fingers.
Small, regular water changes, plant trimming (scissors work), and a bit of liquid aquarium fertilizer are all that are required to maintain this setup. Until you’re ready to invest in water-quality test kits, most local aquarium stores will test a sample of your water for little to no charge.
Mini planted aquariums are really quite simple to set up and easy to maintain, without the expense or time andspacecommitmentofalargeraquarium.Theseren.e beauty they bring into your home more than repays what little effort is required to maintain them. Give one a try!
by KARLA NICHOLS
Three of the most frightening words to hear: “You have cancer.” A cancer diagnosis can turn a person’s world upside down. There is a place in Kansas City where cancer patients and their families can turn to when they hear that devastating news. That place is Cancer Action.
Cancer Action is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of those living with, through, and beyond cancer in the Kansas City area. Our belief is that no one should face the challenge of cancer alone. We “go the extra mile” to offer vital services and support throughout the cancer journey. We offer programs and services that address the physical, emotional, social, and financial needs of cancer survivors and their families.
Cancer Action takes a very personal approach to care. Each person’s journey is unique. The caring staff of Cancer Action — operating from three locations within the metro — help people navigate through every step of their personal journey. Here is just one woman’s story and how Cancer Action came alongside her during this difficult time.
Mary’s world, and that of her 9-year old child, changed dramatically three years ago when Mary was diagnosed with lymphoma. At the age of 40, Mary began the fight of her life: experiencing times of aggressive cancer treatments and times of cancer remission. The disease took its toll on Mary financially, physically, and emotionally; so she turned to Cancer Action. We have been at Mary’s side, going the extra mile with her, providing the services she desperately needs, such as:
• Transportation to life-sustaining treatment appointments.
• Nutritional supplements to maintain her strength and energy.
• Medical supplies she needed but could not afford.
• Holiday adoption program to provide happiness and hope for her and her family.
• Guidance to help navigate the difficult challenges she faced.
Each year, thousands of cancer patients just like Mary come through our doors. As the only local organization offering the comprehensive services we provide, we could not do it without the support of our community. One group who “goes the extra mile” on behalf of those with cancer has been Sunflowers to Roses (S2R). They are dedicated to helping cancer patients through their love of cycling. Through their hard work to put on the fundraising Sunflowers to Roses Bike Ride, S2R has raised over $250,000 over the past 14 years, supporting cancer survivors through its financial support to Cancer Action.
Together, we go the extra mile!
by ROBERT HELLWEG
Anyone who has ever slept on the floor knows the negative effects of a restless, uncomfortable night of sleep: focus is lost, productivity goes down, and emotions run high. These effects are especially harsh on children for whom sleep deprivation can contribute to emotional, health, and developmental problems. Did you know that approximately one in every 42 children in Kansas City struggles with these issues because s/he sleeps nightly on the floor, sofa, or shares a bed with parents or multiple other siblings? It is Sleepyhead Beds’ unique mission to serve this overlooked need.
Through her work as a CASA (court-appointed special advocate), Sleepyhead Beds’ founder Monica Starr regularly encountered children suffering the effects of sleeping in less-than-ideal conditions. In many cases, children in the foster system were unable to be reunited
with their parents because the family lacked the resources to provide those children with their own bed (mattress and box spring). Monica thought by reaching out to her network and securing gently used beds and bedding that she might be able to help get these kids back home.
What started as the simple efforts of one Kansas City woman in 2011 has turned into Kansas City’s only non- profit dedicated to improving the quality of life for children and their families by providing clean, recycled beds and bedding. Supported by two full-time staff, a board of 14 community members, and a small army of volunteer labor, Sleepyhead Beds was able to distribute over 2,000 beds to kids and their families in 2016. It hopes to do even more in 2017 and beyond.
Sleepyhead Beds’ initial focus was on children in the foster care system. But as word of this work got out, the demand for beds continued to grow. Sleepyhead Beds now responds to the needs of Kansas City area children in a variety of difficult situations. These include homelessness, return from foster care, recovery from abuse and/or drug dependency issues, refugee relocation, and families recovering from other life-altering challenges. Our current waitlist is over 500 families and totals more than 1,000 Kansas City children in need.
In order to stock our warehouse, Sleepyhead Beds accepts new and gently used mattress and box spring donations from anyone within the Kansas City area (for information about its coverage area, please visit sleepyheadbeds.org). Of all household items, mattresses and box springs are possibly the heaviest and take up the most space. They are difficult to transport and store. By offering pick up of these items, Sleepyhead Beds not only helps supply children and their families in need of beds, but it also prevents these items from going into local Kansas City area landfills. A successful by-product of our work is the diversion of more than 150 tons of waste — including non-biodegradable foam, synthetic fibers, and steel coils – per year. Any mattresses accepted by Sleepyhead Beds that are not deemed fit for redistribution are recycled through our SLEEPYHEAD VOLUNTEERS area partner, Avenue of Life.
This provides a secondary, and invaluable, service to those in the Kansas City area.
Our process is fairly simple. Anyone interested in donating a bed can register via our website to schedule a pickup. For a relatively nominal fee (currently $30), Sleepyhead Beds will pick up the beds, take them to our warehouse for sanitization, and then redistribute them out into the community. We currently accept crib, twin, full, and queen sized mattresses and box springs as well as bedding (sheets and blankets). We also accept used pack ’n play-style playpens, which our families utilize for babies and small toddlers who are not yet ready for a “big kid” bed.
Sleepyhead Beds could not provide these services to Kansas City without the generous support of the local community and our partners. It is so grateful to have been supported since its inception by the Soave Automotive Group and since 2013 by the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Kansas City. With their help, it has been able to increase the number of beds distributed each and every year since its founding. Sleepyhead Beds’ hope is to eventually be able to ensure that no Kansas City child goes to sleep at night without his or her own safe and clean bed.
by JENNIFER LAPKA PFEIFER | profile photos by SAMANTHA LEVI
Where can we look for inspiration, for a positive example of collaboration?
When relationships on the national and international strata could currently be described as frazzled, greed- powered, and brooding, Kansas City residents need only to look in their own community for an incredible example of collaboration.
Rightfully Sewn is a new organization that is bringing jobs and opportunity to our community through the business of fashion. Its mission is provide seamstress training for at-risk women so they can thrive in a specialized workforce that will reestablish Kansas City as an epicenter of garment manufacturing, while at the same time, propel Kansas City fashion designers to market so they can supply the burgeoning demand for high-quality, American-produced garments.
Rightfully Sewn has launched its pilot Seamstress Training Program, which is training six women in industrial sewing and alterations and then helping to place them in full-time, living-wage paying jobs with locally sewn product businesses. Over the past three years, Rightfully Sewn staff researched resources that already existed in the area, created relationships with those entities, and engaged them in the conversation when creating its program.
The following is an overview of the critical relationships:
CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT: In order to develop a curriculum that teaches participants the most sought- after skills in the industry, Rightfully Sewn amalgamated a credentialed, 14-person panel to help develop the Seamstress Training Program. Individuals included leadership from social service agencies, professionals who teach sewing, women’s business development organizations, and sewn-product businesses based in Kansas City who need to hire skilled seamstresses.
VENUE PARTNER: The Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts has a well-appointed sewing room for its robust high school fashion-design program, which the Kansas City Public School District is allowing Rightfully Sewn to use for its Seamstress Training Program.
INTERPRETATION AND CULTURAL SENSITIVITY TRAINING:
We knew interpretation and cultural sensitivity would be elements to plan for after we selected the participants and understood their needs. We are working with Jewish Vocational Services’ Language and Cultural Services department to provide these critical elements to our participants, staff, and volunteers.
SEWN-PRODUCT APPRENTICESHIP PARTNERS: The following businesses have expressed interest in hosting the Seamstress Training Program participants in apprenticeships following their graduation: Elevé Dancewear, Arrow Cleaning, WomenSpirit and Abiding Spirit Vestments, Asiatica, and ContourMD.
SOFT-SKILLS DEVELOPMENT PARTNER: Seamstress Training Program participants can attend a professional skills-development program available through Women’s Employment Network, which focuses on workplace etiquette, financial management, and more.
“I cannot tell you how generous everyone has been of his and her time, energy, and resources — from the initial panel to the staff at the Kansas City, Missouri, school district to the social service agency case managers who helped us identify program candidates,” said Rightfully Sewn founder and president Jennifer Lapka Pfeifer. “Strong communication and organizational skills have been used to make war; together we are using these tools to make opportunities for women.”
Considering their nationalities, “we have nicknamed this first class the United Nations of Sewing,” said Pamela Lucas, Rightfully Sewn Director of Curricula and Instruction, who has nearly 30 years of teaching experience in fashion design and construction. “These women are inspirational in many ways, and we have been enjoying watching them bond with one another and develop their skills.
Our expectations for the program are very high: we have a rigorous curriculum and we require 100-percent attendance and homework turn-in rates. In return, we promise to give the seamstresses all the resources they need to become gainfully employed in this growing industry.”
Please follow the seamstresses’ progress by signing up for Rightfully Sewn’s e-newsletter at rightfullysewn. org and help support.the organization’s initiatives by marking your calendar for its Golden Gala taking place on Saturday, December 2.
by JENNIFER LAPKA PFEIFER | photos by BONJWING LEE
“Always dress yourself out of respect for whom you are spending time with,” my beloved, late grandmother once told me. She shared those words of wisdom while I was in my teenage years and their meaning becomes more and more sharply focused with each passing year. Essentially, as I would when preparing a speech, I aim to “know my audience” when dressing my body each morning by reviewing my calendar appointments for the day. Do I have lunch with my best friend? . . . a meeting with a potential funder? . . . a cocktail hour with colleagues? — or perhaps all of the above. I tailor my day’s look accordingly.
My husband and male friends frequently ask me for advice on how to best adhere to this or that dress code, especially business casual. As our society continues to shed formality, in general — think shrinking lexicons, the loss of cursive writing, RSVPing via text message, etc. — business casual has slowly become the modus operandi in workplaces around the country, starting with Silicon Valley CEOs in the 1990s. Even behemoth businesses like J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and American Express have opted in, in order to attract young and seasoned employees alike who want to express their individuality while being as comfortable as possible.
So what does the code constitute? Because the meaning of business casual is different according to geography and industry, what do I advise my husband and male friends to wear? I talk to my wealth manager about investing; I talk to my doctor about health; therefore, I sought the advice of a professional clothier on this matter, Tom Paolini of Paolini Garment Company, so I could help them. I share his knowledge with you, too, here.
Tom says, “The key to dressing for business casual, or any level of formality or casualness, is being mindful of time, place, and your personal brand. It could be defined as “familiar dressing.” You dress more formally typically when you have a new client or a board meeting. But dressing more familiar means that you are comfortable with your client base and peers and can literally loosen your tie.”
To Palolini, business casual is simply expanding an existing mode of dress — essentially how you already dress for the country club, for business travel, and for dinner on Friday night, but adapting that look to the work week. These adaptations can include keeping your suit but removing your tie and unbuttoning your shirt a bit; pairing high-quality denim jeans with a blazer; finding a unique bomber jacket and putting it with structured trousers; switching out serious socks with whimsical ones; maintaining manicured stubble on your face; and wearing bright shoes.
I have the greatest respect for Tom and his passion for elevating our community’s level of dressing and understanding of the fashion industry. Pop by his shop — which, interestingly, is located in the former home of Lawrin — the Kansas-bred 1938 Kentucky Derby-winning horse — in the Corinth South shopping center in Prairie Village. He and his team can offer men (and women) plenty more advice on custom suiting and shoes,.tuxedos, high-end textiles from historical, international mills, and more.
words and photos by TOM STRONGMAN
Quadrifoglio: The four-leaf clover that means good luck. But it’s also the name of the 505-horsepower version of Alfa Romeo’s Giulia sports sedan, and if you get to drive one, you’ll feel like that fender- mounted badge has indeed brought you luck.
I spent a couple of days with one recently, and there’s no question that this car puts an impressive stamp on Alfa’s return to the American market and serves notice to European competitors, such the BMW M3, Mercedes-Benz AMG C63, and the Audi S4, that there’s a new “Alfa male” to lead the pack.
For those that don’t know the history, A.L.F.A. (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, or Anonymous Lombard Automobile Factory) was founded in Milan, Italy, in 1910. In 1920, under the guidance of Nicola Romeo, the company became Alfa Romeo. As enthusiasts know, Alfa Romeo is known as a brand that’s vehicles are brimming with emotion. As Orazio Satta Puliga, head of design, said in 1946: “Alfa Romeo is a particular way of living, of experiencing an automobile. The real essence of Alfa Romeo defies description . . . . We are in the realm of sensations, passions, things that have more to do with the heart than with the head.” And so it is today.
The ceramic quadrifoglio badge on the front fender has its origin in the early days of racing. In 1923, in an attempt to change the luck of the Alfa Romeo racing team, Ugo Sivocci painted the quadrifoglio on his car and won the Targa Florio race. Because it seemed to bring good luck, the four-leaf clover became a symbol of Alfa Romeo performance and was painted on every car. Sadly, Sivocci died in an accident later that year in a P1 racing car while practicing for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. His car had yet to have a four-leaf clover painted on it.
Fire up the 2.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 that sits behind the iconic heart-shaped grille (some say it is shaped like a shield) and you’re greeted with a sound that becomes fury when you unleash all of the engine’s prodigious power. This is a car that resonates with your heart, your head, and the seat of your pants, because it offers such a sensuous driving experience. You feel exactly what the car is doing every moment. A torque-vectoring rear differential sends drive to the wheel with the most traction, and that helps the car knife through turns more precisely.
A near-perfect 50/50 weight balance and a curb weight of 3,800 pounds contribute to balanced handling. It is hard to explore the limits of this car without being on a track. Using carbon fiber for the hood, roof, rear spoiler and an active aero front spoiler saves weight. The test car’s huge carbon ceramic brakes erased speed with impressive ease, although they are an expensive option and the tradeoff is a bit of noise at low speeds.
The Quadrifoglio, base price $72,000, is one of three Guilia sedans. The Giulia and Giulia Ti have base prices of $37,995 and $39,995. They are powered by a 280-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder. All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option and would be most welcome here given our climate.
Serious enthusiasts will covet the Quadrifoglio, despite the fact that is likely to be available in limited numbers.
The car I drove had options such as the Brembo carbon ceramic brakes ($8,000), Sparco carbon fiber racing seats ($2,750), tri-coat white pearl paint ($2,200), the driver assistance package ($1,500), and the carbon fiber active aero front splitter ($900). The sticker price was $89,845, and it is in the same ballpark as a well- equipped BMW M3 and the Mercedes-Benz AMG C63.
Plus, consider the Alfa’s performance: 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.8 seconds and a top track speed of 191 mph. That’s on par with a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S.
Despite the twin-turbo’s impressive power output, the Quadrifoglio is easily an everyday car. That is due in part to four drive modes: Advanced Efficiency deactivates cylinders to reduce fuel consumption; Natural is a more comfortable setting for daily use; Dynamic sharpens up the brakes and steering while using more aggressive engine and transmission calibrations; and Race model turns off the stability control, opens up the dual-model exhaust, and lets the engine roar. You need to be on your toes and paying attention if you select Race mode, intended, no doubt, for track driving.
The eight-speed dual-clutch transmission has column-mounted shift paddles.
The cabin is equipped with premium leather and an Alcantara headliner. The optional Sparco carbon fiber seats fit like the proverbial glove and look great as well. The navigation screen is a bit small. The test car was equipped with the Harmon Kardon premium audio system, but, in truth, the best thing to listen to is the engine when driven in Dynamic mode.
Standard safety and driver-assist features include forward collision warning, plus autonomous braking when a front collision appears imminent; adaptive cruise control with full-stop intervention; lane departure warning; and blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection.
words by JESSE LITTLE | food photos by ANNA PETROW
Kansas City is often referred to as the “Paris of the Plains” for its similarity to the wild party- like atmosphere of Paris, France, in the roaring ’20s, so to say Le Fou Frog is a Parisian bistro is a misnomer. This friendly, cozy restaurant-bar is the type of place you would find down by the Old Port in Marseille, not Paris.
Chef and proprietor Mano Rafael and wife, Barbara, met in New York City when she applied as a part-time bartender at L’Auberge du Midi, a restaurant owned by Mano and his brother, while she was pursuing an acting career. Mano comes from a chef family: his mother and uncle were both chefs in his native Marseille. Barbara, a Kansas City native, is a graduate of the Lee Strasberg School of method acting in New York. Working together, they discovered they had a lot in common and worked well together. When the
rent tripled in New York, they decided leaving for either Marseille or Kansas City was the answer. After visiting Barbara’s hometown, Mano fell in love with Kansas City and recognized there was not a restaurant in town with that modest, unassuming Provencal bistro feel.
The rest, as they say, is history. In 1995, the search began for a location. Barbara suggested the Plaza or Brookside, but Mano was certain the plain little-tan-block building, formerly a tavern, one block east of the River Market was the place. Mano even designed a bar that looked like one he knew of in Marseille. In 1996, Le Fou Frog opened and was an immediate success, despite being surrounded by mostly closed warehouses. In the early years, it became a destination restaurant for the many loyal customers that comprised its base; however, now with the renaissance happening in the River Market area, it is walking distance from the new residential developments. As it begins its third decade, Le Fou Frog continues to develop many new fans and friends.
The ambitious menu includes classic French cuisine that includes perennial favorites, such as: SOUPE À L’OIGNON GRATINÉE, a traditional French onion soup sweetened with port wine enriched with veal stock; QUEUE DE HOMMARD SAUCE VANILLE ET CHAMPAGNE, twin Maine lobster tails in a butter sauce of champagne and vanilla; and STEAK AU POIVRE, Kansas City strip encrusted in black peppercorns flambéed in Cognac with a sauce of veal stock, Madagascar green peppercorns, and cream, served with French fries. These three dishes will redefine your expectation of what onion soup, lobster, and steak with fries should taste like. The daily chalkboard includes 20-plus seasonal French offerings and dishes from other cuisines, which can include Dover sole, served whole and boned table-side; fish du jour; and elk, bison, and kangaroo; which all show the extreme depth of the talent in this kitchen. If the selections seem overwhelming, courteous servers are happy to carefully explain any item in detail and walk you through your choices. It is highly suggested to take your time and have fun, but if you are in a hurry, do tell your server; all items are cooked to order, and some take longer than others.
The selection of cocktails and bubbles is extensive and well made. You can even live your Moulin Rouge moment with glasses of green absinthe or choose from the fine selection of French wines. The bistro routinely presents patrons with special events. Come celebrate Bastille Day, a three-day celebration of French independence with two floorshows performed nightly by the staff and friends; or celebrate the holidays with Noel in Provence, a 13-course meal celebrating the Christmas foods and traditions in Provence. Plan to spend the entire evening savoring four- star food in a fun-filled atmosphere. Whether you dine indoors or on the Provence patio, enjoy your evening with exceptional cuisine and superior service.
The success of Le Fou Frog is attributed to Mano, the exceptionally talented chef, Barbara’s charming theatrical talent in the dining room, the kitchen staff and its Chef de Cuisine, Fatmir Paplekj, who has been with Le Fou Frog since he was 17, and the funny, talented, long-tenured dining room staff. Daily, the serving staff hosts a pre- opening tasting of new menu items, daily specials, and any new wines.
Barbara says to work here you have to be kind, smart, and funny, and if you are talented in the arts, it’s a plus. Everyone here is treated like family: it starts with the staff and extends to all who walk through the door. Customers never know when Barbara will announce, “Attention! Attention! Mesdames et Messieurs, for your dining pleasure… ” and your waiter, hostess, or pastry chef precedes to serenade you with song. These are talented people, and if you are a regular, they know your name, what you drink and eat, and your favorite table. They clearly enjoy entertaining, having a good time, and sharing their passion for food. So grab a cozy table, join in the festivities, and become a new friend, in an atmosphere that is relaxing and totally unpretentious.
by SUSAN RICHARDS JOHNSON | photos courtesty of KC LIBRARY ARCHIVES
I had the fortunate opportunity to become involved with one of my favorite historic buildings while practicing as an intern architect at the firm of Solomon, Claybaugh, and Young Architects in the early 1980s. I was assigned the honorable task of working with the one and only Charles N. Sharpe, the founder and owner of a highly successful life insurance business: Ozark National Life Insurance Company. As insurance sales prospered, the need for a larger building to accommodate the company’s growth became a necessity.
Mr. Sharpe was particularly fond of beautiful historic buildings. An opportunity came up to explore the vacant Old Public Library in downtown Kansas City for a potential new home. The library had undergone several adaptive reuses upon closing in 1959. The original facility closed to the general public when a more modern facility was constructed at 12th and McGee streets. The historic library sat vacant for many years before becoming the unique home for the U.S. Trade Schools, a business model not particularly suited for this remarkable tribute to beautifully designed architecture. If it had not been for the Trade Schools’ president, Ms. Ilene Latrell, a much different outcome for the building would have taken place. She demanded that her students be extremely protective of the existing building.
My first visit to the Old Public Library was on a cold winter day in December 1981. This forgotten building was for sale on the “courthouse steps” due to unpaid taxes. Ozark National Life had retained the services of a general contractor, Thomas Dunn, of K.C. Heritage Construction Company. Mr. Dunn found the building during an exhaustive search for a new home for the insurance company. His construction company was responsible for the extraordinary rehabilitation work required by the building’s new owner.
Our host for the building tour (the-then owner of the building) led the interested party down a narrow flight of basement stairs, into the lowest depth of the building. There, we were introduced to the original boilers and an antiquated, enormous electrical panel. It was dark and damp, not a good way to begin our expedition to find a new home for Mr. Sharpe’s insurance company. After several hours of trudging around in the poorly lit and unheated building, we left with Mr. Sharpe stating, “This is one building I am definitely not interested in pursuing.” I was crushed. Several hours later, though, I received a call from Mr. Sharpe stating that he had thought again about the building and fallen in love with it. He decided to buy it that very afternoon.
The Old Public Library building is sited on the northeast corner of 9th and Locust streets, a once blighted area of northeastern downtown Kansas City, Missouri. It has been occupied by its newest tenant as of 1984, Ozark National Life Insurance Company. The building is enormous. It occupies one entire city block in length and one-half city block in width. The original architects for the building were William F. Hackney, with assistance from Adriance Van Brunt Architects. The structure was constructed in two phases: the original south portion was built between 1895–’97, and the north addition in 1917–’18. The current building is filled with original plaster moldings, ornate plaster ceilings, and column capitals (column heads). The majority of the millwork is comprised of circa 1890s quarter-sawn white oak that presents itself in elaborate paneled doors, wainscoting, and entrances. There is an abundance of beautiful marble and granite detailing, a total of seven different varieties as found in marble wainscoting, columns, and flooring. There is an original terrazzo floor in the main entry rotunda on the first floor, edged with small ceramic tile mosaic banding. The existing brass door and window hardware are original and quite decorative. There are five fireplaces, two of which are constructed of highly detailed marble mosaic and granite. The other three fireplaces are constructed of white oak and display ornate, hand-carved details above the original firebox, hand carved from a single piece of wood. There remain seven original skylights, with one above the library’s original checkout counter.
Over the years, the insurance company has chugged along as a highly successful business. Another preeminent tenant was added to the building in the later ’80s, the Fairbanks Morse Scale Company. This tenant took over the original Western Gallery of Art area, which was located on the second floor. This use represented an art gallery that housed the private collection of William Rockhill Nelson,prior to his involvement with the development and construction of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the museum we all know and love today. Based upon this original use of the second floor, Mr. Sharpe began collecting large, original pieces of artwork, which he had placed throughout the building. The Kansas City, Missouri, school board also had its offices within the building from 1897 through 1959, when the school board also moved its offices to the new library.
The history of the Old Public Library remains one of the most interesting stories Kansas City has to offer. My memories run deep as I remember the myriad of decisions that had to be made in order to retrofit the building for an adaptive reuse from a public library into an insurance company. Revitalizing older historic properties is one of my favorite roles I have taken on as a practicing architect these past 40 years. I love my job, and I am proud to have been an integral part of this truly important and engaging rehabilitation project. Congratulations and thanks are due to Mr. Sharpe for having the foresight to understand the potential opportunity the Old Public Library had to offer.
Hospitality [hos-pi-tal-i-tee] – the friendly reception and treatment of guests and strangers; the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.
To see the definition of hospitality written out, we can simplify a concept that shapes the decisions we as designers make every day for cities and communities who see the built environment as an opportunity to grow their national or international brand. Hospitality is the treatment and experience your guests have and is the primary driver that helps cities like ours grow. What’s unique about hospitality is that it should influence the visitor experience on a visceral level. It’s something embedded in the core values of the most attractive mid-sized cities. And it includes a wide variety of factors. It’s the experience visitors have purchasing a ticket online; it’s the traffic they do or don’t encounter; it’s the ease with which they navigate our downtown, find a restaurant, or visit our shops; it’s the quality of entertainment options we provide; it’s the ease of transportation; and it’s the interactions they have with Kansas Citians.
As a designer of public assembly buildings, including sports facilities, hospitality is really the core of our business. And, second, because as an avid fan of architecture, I see the direct impact the built environment can have on providing a hospitable experience for visitors. We all know the beauty of visiting a city and feeling welcomed, comfortable, and cared for. And from a customer perspective, we know what we love about certain experiences in our city, and we know the experiences that leave us wanting more. Take stadiums as an example. Because of the broad programmatic considerations and demands, stadiums should serve as a melting pot of the trends shaping dozens of other building types, providing other industries with a model for how they can operate and engage customers, turning them into loyal fans and brand ambassadors. This isn’t unlike how a city caters to visitors and residents by creating an experience that keeps folks coming back through careful planning and organic growth.
As information and experiences are shared faster than ever before, cities must differentiate themselves – and hospitality-driven design is a critical element to that equation. But how do we incorporate key hospitality trends to advance the visitor experience in our city? And how can design facilitate deeper levels of connection between people and a place?
Over the next decade, I predict we’ll see Kansas City responding to these trends in very tangible ways, including:
Moments of Connection – When a visitor arrives to the city, we have a high-profile opportunity to tell our story and reinforce our values. From graphics and interactive wayfinding to public art and murals, graphics can be used to celebrate our city and supplement the warm welcome we provide to visitors. We have to think about our buildings as a physical extension of our city brand, turning visitors into residents or advocates for our city long after they leave.
Innovative Technology – I predict we will use technology to give visitors and residents a greater level of control of their experience – whether at a stadium, in the workplace or at restaurants. Through mobile applications and the appropriate infrastructure, local businesses and architects alike should consider how to give visitors an opportunity provide real-time, relevant feedback to teams to help them refine the experience, making the built environment a living laboratory. We can also use technology to mine data and customize how a visitor experiences the city – from the airport, to the hotel, to restaurants, to retail and entertainment options. In addition, we’ve seen social media facilitate digital connections between visitors and residents in Kansas City, providing a real testament to the
power of design to build meaningful connections.
Health and Wellness – Health and wellness have been widely discussed as a trend in hospitality circles and beyond, and are a critical factor as we think about the growth of Kansas City. Spots like 18Broadway, our own urban garden, connect people to a purpose. We also see buildings being designed to exceed traditional health and wellness parameters with the implementation of WELL, a new standard in sustainable design. Hotels in other cities designed to WELL standards have successfully been marketed at a higher price point, proving people care about healthy buildings. It’s a consideration I see becoming increasingly important locally. In addition, over the last year, new restaurant concepts that cater to healthy living have emerged locally, giving visitors and residents more options.
Looking to the future, we’ll be able to evolve to diverse visitors’ needs by asking “what if” rather than discussing “what is” in Kansas City. These are the questions that advance hospitality-driven design thinking, and they are questions we should challenge one another to answer.in order to continue to innovate and drive a truly friendly, comfortable, and hospitable experience for everyone.
by BILL JOHNSON | photo by MICHAEL ROBINSON