Dutch Flowers is nestled within the City Market on Kansas City’s Grand Boulevard.
The sliver of Dutch culture co-exists within a melting pot of cosmopolitan establishments. Across the street, there’s Bo Lings Chinese restaurant. Also within sight are eateries featuring Brazilian, Middle Eastern, Mexican and Indian fare.
The World Cup has created a keen eye for such culture. And with the Netherlands qualifying for the semifinals for the second consecutive World Cup — the Dutch face Argentina on Wednesday afternoon — a flower shop with “It Ain’t Much If It Ain’t Dutch” as its slogan stands out from the crowd.
The driving force behind Dutch Flowers? Els Van der Meij, who moved to Kansas City from Amsterdam in 2000 and one year later opened for business.
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“My husband’s from here,” she says. “I would have never chose Kansas City if I had the choice.”
Inside her shop, wooden shoes are scattered about the cement floor. Some are painted blue and red, layered with intricate floral designs. In the center sits a pair of wooden shoes painted orange — the official color of the Netherlands.
Upstairs, a flower catalog is flipped open to the Orange Fire flower. It’s serendipitous, to be sure, but serendipity’s odds increase when that color courses through Van der Meij’s veins.
Van der Meij’s family still resides in Amsterdam, and she keeps her Dutch heritage vibrant by calling her mother every day. During the World Cup, Van der Meij has watched some of the Netherlands’ games while on Skype with her family. Her brother sends her videos from bars back home, everyone clad in orange and cheering for their team.
In Kansas City, Van der Meij also keeps an eye on the competition.
“There’s not a tight Dutch community in Kansas City,” Van der Meij says. “It’s not like the Brazilian community here, which is 15,000 strong.”
On days Brazil played, Van der Meij took notice of the many fans in yellow jerseys who flooded Taste of Brazil, a neighboring market and eatery. She saw how much fun they had bringing their culture to life on the streets of Kansas City, so far away from home.
Other than watching the games, Van der Meij hasn’t felt the need to do anything special on days the Dutch have played. The Netherlands is a “very, very small country” anyway, she says.
“Other than dressing in orange and screaming my lungs off?” Van der Meij asks. “No.”
As for Wednesday’s game, Van der Meij expects the Argentines to take her Dutch to penalty kicks.
“Anybody you know that’s Dutch is a fan at this point,” she says.
Dutch fans might not have expected their team to make it this far, but they did … and now Van der Meij is fantasizing about the World Cup final.
“I want to play Germany because that’s the Netherlands’ archrival,” Van der Meij says. “Like the Chiefs and Broncos.”
Germany did its part Tuesday, ravaging host country Brazil in a historic 7-1 victory and advancing to the championship game. The rest will be up to Van der Meij’s favorite player, forward Wesley Sneijder; her tournament favorite, Netherlands captain Robin van Persie; and the rest of the men in orange.
Van der Meij will work on Wednesday before the match. Her shop draws a few Dutch customers, and she could watch at work if she wanted.
Instead, she’ll drive home, motoring down Grand Boulevard, past an Argentinian flag attached to a light pole — yet another reminder of Kansas City’s cultural smorgasbord.
But she’ll remain confident as game time approaches: “Call me when we win!”