Second Saturdays is hosted by Discover North Kansas City, a fledgling initiative between the city’s artist and maker enclaves, and the RiverNorth District, a nonprofit business league comprised of the area’s eclectic brewpubs, eateries and music venues. Organizers coordinated the efforts of more than two dozen local businesses to create the monthly event, which they hope will become a popular tradition throughout the metro.
The most recent Second Saturday on June 8 brought together an array of purveyors of fine art, upscale crafts, food, beer and local music.
“We had 26 businesses participating this month,” said Joe Gauer, a North Kansas City denizen and one of the lightning rods of the RiverNorth District.
Second Saturdays spans the length and breadth of North Kansas City — a city with 4,505 residents — and aims to attract people from all over the KC metro.
Events like this, early in their maturation, nurture new businesses along the startup continuum. Harmony Kaestner of Harmony & Co. is a 30-year old entrepreneur trying to clean up in the homemade soap business.
Kaestner, who is deaf, has no car and few immediate opportunities to pursue his dream of opening a retail space. So community fetes present an opportunity to garner early momentum for his business, which he manages out of his apartment in Kansas City’s Historic Northeast neighborhood.
Leveraging passive traffic from someone else’s marketing efforts and the investment of the community, makers such as Kaestner can connect with customers and get a toehold in the market.
That’s not lost on local policy makers. North Kansas City’s assistant city administrator, Kim Nakahodo, recently led a work session with North Kansas City’s City Council to allocate funding for community events.
Nakahodo references the success of Kansas City’s Neighborhood Tourism Development Fund, which underwrites similar events that help attract 22 million visitors to the metro and stimulate $4.6 billion in direct expenditures. Events such as First Fridays are being directly tied to new business development and general economic growth.
At this month’s Second Saturdays event, Gauer poured cold beers for visitors from a keg supplied by local brewer Big Rip at an arts market on the west side of Northtown, just blocks away from the brewery. Big Rip opened six years ago and is North Kansas City’s oldest craft brewery.
Gauer credits his time spent as a bartender at Big Rip with connecting him to the local beer community and inspiring him to bring together Big Rip, Cinder Block, Calibration and others for an annual bicycle pub crawl.
North Kansas City’s brewery scene has bubbled over in recent years. Last year, Steve and Chandra Sirois launched Callsign Brewing in a reconditioned tire patch factory retrofitted to resemble a WWII aircraft hangar. The brewery is located at 1447 Gentry St., just outside of an area locals have dubbed the Iron District.
Callsign is dedicated to brewing beers that memorialize fallen veterans, specifically those who perished in lost military aircraft. Every beer is named for the callsign of a downed aircraft. Every beer has a story behind it. At June’s Second Saturday event, they distributed growlers along a shuttle route, tempting the taste buds of those who paid $5 to get a taste of Northtown’s evolving business landscape.
North Kansas City is a really cool area and we come down here almost every weekend,” Christy from Gladstone said during a stop along the bus tour.
“We were here in the spring for a beer fest, and try to get out every weekend,” added Christy’s friend Megan, who calls North Kansas City home. “There’s always something to do.”
Two such doers are Natalie Bates and her mother Helena, who operate HKN Designs out of The Welcome Tree, a shared space for makers on the west end of North Kansas City. At June’s Second Saturday event, they set up a couple blocks north on Atlantic Street at designWerx.
“Every day we were throwing away parts of drums,” she said. “Instead of putting them in the dumpster, I’d put them in my car. I didn’t know what I was going to do with them, but knew it’d be better than throwing them in the trash.”
She saved them in her bedroom. Now she and her mom, who has a background in architecture, craft the drum shells into functional art pieces. Their products ship around the world, with the majority of their sales coming from private commissions.
In addition to makers, artists and breweries, musicians can be found throughout North Kansas City on Second Saturdays. The free concerts start in the early afternoon and continue well into the night at places such as FM Music Vintage Sounds and Steel’s Used Books.
Gauer admitted it will take time for Second Saturdays to build momentum. But he believes in the event and the community.
“With more people continuing to discover Northtown, we know Second Saturdays will take off,” he says. “We want to give people a reason to keep coming back.”
The next Second Saturdays is coming up July 13 in North Kansas City.