Carolyn Wells stands in front of a world map displayed on the wall above the reception desk of the Kansas City Barbeque Society’s new world headquarters at 2519 Madison Ave., across from the new Boulevard Visitors Center.
The map’s swarm of red dots represents all the countries with KCBS-sanctioned competitions. There is plenty left to do in Africa, Asia and South America.
“From people who only wanted to cook and drink beer to a community and not just a local community but an international community,” says Wells, the founder and executive director of the KCBS, shaking her head in disbelief at the growth of the nonprofit organization that got its start mostly as a lark in 1985.
In late September, KCBS moved from its original, cramped 1,500-square-foot headquarters to a spacious 44,000-square-foot facility that will allow the organization to continue to increase its programming, member services and local community outreach.
“You could roller derby in here,” Wells cracks as she shows off the modern offices, a board room and the Wall of Flames donor wall.
In fact, there’s so much space that Yeti coolers are acting as temporary “furniture” in some corners.
Naturally, a barbecue theme runs throughout the interior: The walls are painted in “barbecue red.” The upholstery design is “matchstick.” The Wall of Flames is paneled with “cooking woods” like oak, hickory and apple. Wells donated a massive hickory table for the boardroom in honor of her late husband and co-founder, Gary Wells.
“We just tried to keep it all things barbecue in homage to a food that has been good to us,” Wells says.
The KCBS looked at 19 properties before settling on its new spot. The building, which formerly housed a DST data center, includes offices, a board room and kitchens. Three loading docks were torn out to create a theater-style seating space at the front of the building where “beers, blues and barbecue” are intended to come together.
No word on when the beer pipeline will be installed.
Phase 2 of the project will include a teaching kitchen, and there’s room to rent upstairs and downstairs.
To say that Wells is surprised by the growth of the KCBS is an understatement: “We’ve been riding the wave (of popularity in barbecue). It’s the ultimate of comfort foods. You eat it with your hands and it’s about food, family, fun and friends. Barbecue is usually not a solitary pursuit.”
Regular business hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Go to kcbs.us to become a member or to watch for future events.
Jill Wendholt Silva is The Star’s James Beard award-winning food editor. She is also lead restaurant critic, a food stylist and Chow Town’s blog curator. Reach her on Twitter at @kcstarfood and @chowtownkc or Instagram as @chowtownkc.