A handwritten Caution Wet Floor sign greeted curious shoppers and nostalgia seekers to a pilot run of the Katz Midtown Market on Saturday.
By MARY SANCHEZ
The Kansas City Star
Yes, Katz of the drugstore fame. The historic Katz Drug Store building at Westport Road and Main Street is the focus of a revitalization attempt thats getting inspiration from the divine.
An interdenominational church in midtown purchased the building at auction last year. Redeemer Fellowship is nearby in the 3900 block of Baltimore. Church leaders envision a monthly market in the old Katz building, a place to showcase local merchants and artists. Theyre still talking about other uses for the building.
My job is to see how our church family can love the city, this community, said Chris Gorney, community development associate with Redeemer.
Saturdays unrelenting rains forced vendors to move inside the building from the parking lot. Just as well. The problem of what to do with the market once winter arrives was solved. It will be an indoor event.
Purchasing the building was an ambitious undertaking given the large space (more than 17,000 square feet on the main floor alone) and its condition (leaky roof). But at least someone stepped forward.
The negative impact of a prominently situated building growing more dilapidated cant be overstated. Its an eyesore symbolic of economic downturn.
The store last operated as a drugstore more than five years ago. It was a Skaggs and an Osco before CVS Corp. bought Osco. But the glory days were under the Katz name.
The Katz brothers, immigrants from the Ukraine, are a Kansas City entrepreneurial success story. Isaac and Michael Katz first operated two cigar stores downtown, beginning in 1914.
Advertising geniuses, the brothers were able to shift their business model to adapt to changes brought by World War I, governmental regulation and competition. Eventually, Katz drugstores were located throughout the Midwest.
Their first store outside of downtown was this one, built in 1934. It was known for its art deco style. Clarence Kivett, nephew of the Katz brothers, designed it and then went on to architectural fame.
For Redeemer, the focus is on not what could be done with the space, but rather what needs to be done to benefit midtown, Gorney said.
One distinctive feature of the Katz building is its giant clock face on Main Street. The hands are stopped. A guesstimate by Redeemer staff is that refurbishing it will cost at least $20,000.
But if that can be accomplished, it would be a symbolic gesture sealing the reclamation of an old historic building, proving it is no longer past its prime.
To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to email@example.com.