After nearly 50 years of operations, Mario's In Westport closed in late 2017.
But a longtime employee, Shelia Shields, is carrying on the tradition. She recently opened Shelia’s Grinder Shop in the space at 204 Westport Road.
Shields also will specialize in grinders — cheese ($5.75), meatball ($5.95) and Italian sausage ($6.95) — as well as pastas that come with a garden salad and toast.
"It's not really different to be the owner except it's a lot more work, a lot more on the business side," said Shields, who has worked at Mario's since 1984. "But so many people were so upset about the closing that I thought I will just give it a try and see what happens. So many people said it is a tradition, an institution."
Mario Scaglia opened Mario's in March 1969, offering classic Italian deli sandwiches. But he also wanted to offer something different, "something more than just meatballs between Italian bread that was split open," he said at the time. So he "grinded" out the center of a 6-inch, crunchy roll, inserted meat, cheese and sauce for the filling, put a bread plug on the end and heated it up in five minutes for The Grinder.
In 1971, a New York-based freelance food and travel writer claimed it was "the single best thing I've ever had to eat in Kansas City."
Scaglia later sold Mario's to the Waid family. John Waid recently retired and will soon be leaving for Arizona.
Scaglia's daughter, Jo Marie Scaglia, will feature the original Mario's grinder in the grab-and-go area of her new Caffetteria Modern Cafe and Marketplace in Prairie Village, which is scheduled to open in mid-March.