Ask Shane Veritasi his opinion on, well, anything. He’s likely to give it to you.
Government. Whiskey. Downtown. Bird flu.
The multi-downtown Lee’s Summit business owner has taken a unique and aggressive interest in the business district since opening The W at 6 S.W. Third St. in May of 2015.
Now with business interests on both sides of the railroad tracks, Veritasi has taken on the role of advocate, investor and developer in a downtown that was built on entrepreneurs taking chances and business owners living out their dreams.
The W has been a game-changing nightlife spot in downtown Lee’s Summit.
Since that opening night more than two years ago, the Prohibition-style speakeasy has attracted visitors that might not normally make the trek to the burgeoning entertainment district. Particularly from across the state line. Veritasi said that 22 percent of his receipts come out of Leawood.
Before they settled downtown, Shane and his wife, Merideth, looked all over Kansas City for the spot they had imagined and drawn up in their heads and dreams for many years.
“We had looked at location on the Plaza and in the Crossroads. Mer said we should try Lee’s Summit,” said Shane, a Lee’s Summit resident since 1993.
“On the way home, we found a sign for an office for rent on the second floor off Third Street in downtown. We wanted to make it authentic to that time period, the 1920s. So, we went to work.”
It would be the first of many commercial ventures.
Shane and Merideth immediately began work on 6 S.W. Third – another new concept called Hand in Glove. Both businesses are inside buildings owned by fellow Lee’s Summit resident Tim Hosmann.
Hand in Glove will have close associations with local coffee house Post Coffee and famed KC distiller J. Rieger & Co.
When it opens, Hand in Glove will make the 19th bar or restaurant in downtown Lee’s Summit.
“People may disagree, but there is no competition in the bar business,” he said. “Pretty much everyone in downtown Lee’s Summit is doing what they’re supposed to be doing. What’s neat about downtown right now is it’s kind of a community. We are all like free consultants for one another.”
Veritasi was simultaneously working on 6 S.W. Third and 23 S.E. Third — a building he recently purchased — which is home of now-opened Libations & Company, a craft cocktail-lovers dream that sells spirits from all seven Kansas City-area distilleries. Shane and his father, Bill, did the build-out and interior work as they imagined the future of the transformed building.
“Fun thing about 23 was, the front of it was in horrible condition, covered in plywood and painted red and we had an opportunity to tear it completely out and change the store front, add art deco, a marble front,” Shane said, adding he wasn’t worried about what could be housed in the location.
“Not in downtown Lee’s Summit, no. It’s not a gamble down here.”
The latest Veritasi venture is across the street from his first one – 9 S.W. Third in what is known as the 1909 Building – a former home of city hall and the earliest Lee’s Summit Fire Department.
A fan of innovation and revolution, Shane is leasing the top floor to do something that’s never been done in Lee’s Summit: he’s applied for and received the first federal distillery license in the history of Lee’s Summit. He plans to start making ingredients for bartenders, bitters and neutral spirits for cocktails — all in one of the smallest distilleries in the country.
And when he isn’t weighing whiskey or walls, Shane loves to talk downtown Lee’s Summit: branding, development and transportation.
“Downtown should become an independent district that would distinguish us from strip centers that some, unfortunately, know Lee’s Summit as,” he said. “We have already built what others want: culture. Locally owned boutiques, shops, restaurants, bars, are all centralized down here.”
He’s not always a consensus builder. And he has no board to report to. But Shane, like many business owners, practices the art of the face-to-face deal.
“I’ve never been anywhere where people are so willing to assist and help their neighbors,” he said.
Shane said the massive investments inside buildings right now only prove downtown is serious business.
“These businesses throwing seven-figure investments into downtown, there’s a reason,” he said. “No one is pulling money out of their businesses, people here are putting money back into them. And that isn’t happening in many areas at all in the KC metro. We’re at a precipice here where things are going to start happening very quickly and the city is going to have to be ready to support it with necessary infrastructure.
“We are on the right path, we just need to get our bearings straight. There is too much potential down here to have anyone with no skin in the game throwing up roadblocks. Three years ago to now, look at the difference in downtown. Just think where we will be in three more years.”
Additional housing? More entertainment options? Retail? Stay tuned. Because with doers that continue to invest in downtown, the opportunities seem endless.