Star Magazine

The Conversation: Suzie Aron has been a catalyst for the Crossroads’ revival

The Kansas City Star

Suzie Aron of Fairway owns Aron Real Estate, a commercial real estate agency in Kansas City. Aron also is president of the Crossroads Community Association and on the board of the Kansas City Downtown Council. This conversation took place at Extra Virgin restaurant.

You are the doyenne of the Crossroads. The area has seen tremendous growth and development in the past 10 years. Where is the focus now?

Our neighborhood is really fun, and it continues to get better and better.

We had a great event recently to help out the restaurants that are really hurting because of the streetcar construction and the replacement of the utilities. We met on a street corner and created a holiday rush (ourselves) to all the restaurants for dinner. They were all packed.

Are there any undeveloped buildings left in the Crossroads?

People have run out of building west, so we are pushing east. There’s a whole bunch of wonderful new people coming to our neighborhood who are stepping up and buying buildings.

The best thing about Crossroads is that people who used to be in a small space move to a larger space, but they stay in the neighborhood. People who downsize stay in the neighborhood. People who were tenants become buyers. A number of our tenants this year have bought buildings. It’s exciting to see those creative people taking a risk, jumping in, getting a loan and being able to move their businesses into their own building.

As some people move east, we have a lot of leftover buildings that are getting redeveloped. The owners that sold their land to the (UMKC) Conservatory (of Music and Dance), both of them are going to the east Crossroads.

And what Jeff Owens is doing at the Bauer in the former Arts Incubator space is phenomenal: There are 32 small businesses in there and most of them are arts-related. He has created this wonderful alleyway and new entrepreneurial businesses are opening practically every day.

You are renowned for your exotic travels. What was your favorite trip this year?

This year I went to Paris, Antwerp, Lisbon and New York three times. But you know where I went that I am madly in love with? Israel. I had to use all my self-control not to buy 10 buildings.

Did you buy one?

I didn’t get to because the war started almost immediately as I was leaving.

I’m really worried about Israel, but I absolutely loved it. I just love the buildings. When many of the world’s best architects had to escape the Nazis in the 1930s, they went and developed all these gorgeous Bauhaus buildings in Israel. I didn’t know that before. There are absolutely gorgeous buildings everywhere.

There is one building that looks exactly like the Guggenheim. And all the modernist furniture that we love so much, they have it all there, so I was completely captivated visually. I could hardly get down the street.

And the people are wonderful. If you have to live every day knowing that what in fact happened after I left could happen at any time, you have an appreciation for quality of life. It’s a very alive community and a very alive country.

How do you celebrate the holidays?

We celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. I’m Jewish, and all three of my daughters married non-Jewish boys, and my only grandson’s father is Muslim, so we have a mixed-use Christmas, absolutely. Our family brings the whole package of traditions. We’re like America, everybody now is so merged. I think that’s a good thing.

You know, Hanukkah was always kind of a leftover holiday. The Jewish kids saw their friends celebrating this big, big, big Christmas, so we came up with a holiday based on a normal political event where somebody was trying to kill us and we had to celebrate the fact that we’re still alive.

It became a celebration of survival, which most of the Jewish holidays are. It started out small but it’s become a successful production. I’ve gone into stores that have blue and white decorations. It’s not quite as good as Halloween, but we’ll take it.

For me, it’s all about food and family and friends.

What are the key holiday foods for you?

Definitely potato latkes. Everybody wants potato pancakes and matzo ball soup. And even though a number of us don’t eat meat, we always have brisket because those who do eat meat want that. The cooking is a collaborative event and everybody gets excited about it.

To reach Cindy Hoedel, call 816-234-4304 or send email to choedel@kcstar.com. Follow her on Twitter: @CindyHoedel, and on Facebook.

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