Since the Power & Light District opened in March 2008, a retail spot across from the Sprint Center has sat empty.
But not for much longer.
Lenexa-based Sampler Stores has signed a lease for the 5,300-square-foot space at 1400 Grand Blvd., between the KC Live Block and the Two Light Luxury Apartments (now under construction for a 2018 opening) and just a couple of blocks east of the streetcar line.
Sampler Stores plans to open one of its Rally House retail shops in the space on March 3, just in time for March Madness. It will have about 15 employees.
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Aaron Liebert, chief executive officer of Sampler Stores, said some retailers might not have picked the Power & Light space because they needed to be surrounded by other retailers. But the Rally House shops do well in both shopping centers and entertainment districts, he said.
“Going into our store can be part of that experience because our stores in and of themselves are entertaining. There are not a lot of retail stores where the entire family can shop together,” he said. “And in the last couple of years, hotel construction, the apartment construction has brought more people downtown, so I think the timing is right.”
Along with apparel, Rally House can carry such items as Budweiser or Boulevard Brewing Co. pint glasses, Gates and Arthur Bryant’s barbecue sauces, Roasterie coffee, K-State Wildcats Glitter Bottle Koozies, Kansas City Chiefs or Kansas City Royals tumblers, Sporting Kansas City bottle openers, Kansas City Union Station mugs, Kansas Jayhawks plush basketball pet toys and local cookbooks.
Sampler Stores started in 1989 as Mabel’s Kitchen, which sold artisan products and food from small town vendors throughout Kansas. The owners, Tim and Mabel “Peg” Liebert (Aaron’s parents), then founded Kansas Sampler, which is all about Kansas — from apparel to food products to picture and history books.
But when they expanded to other states in 2009, they opened under the name Rally House and offered apparel featuring a variety of college and pro teams and other merchandise. But the older Kansas stores kept operating as Kansas Sampler.
Sampler Stores now has 60 locations in nine states selling sports apparel, accessories and gifts, including a new Rally House Aggieville in Manhattan.
The Power & Light District store will focus on the Kansas City Royals, the Kansas City Chiefs, Sporting Kansas City, the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, the University of Missouri and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Nick Benjamin, executive director of the district, said Rally House has a national reach but also local flavor and roots.
“We’ve been looking for the right tenant in that space — a tenant that complements the energy of KC Live and the Sprint Center and that is additive to the tenant mix. Rally House fits the bill perfectly,” Benjamin said. “The energy in that southeast corner of the district is only going to grow with the opening of Two Light.”
Roasterie’s new Westwood cafe
The air-roasted coffee company is taking a 2,462-square-foot space at 2200 W. 47th Place and plans to open the cafe in March or April. It will seat 77 people indoors and 24 on the covered patio.
“It will be large enough that you can lose yourself a little bit, or be right out in the center of the room,” said Danny O’Neill, founder of the Roasterie. “It will have a bar along 47th Place where they can watch people going to Woodside (Health & Tennis Club) and little nooks where they can have private meetings and talk about working out but not working out.”
It will serve the Roasterie’s coffee and specialty drinks, including its cold-brew coffees and branded teas, along with pastries from Baked in Kansas City and other grab-and-go snacks, which could include lunch items such as salads and sandwiches.
It also will have a retail section selling coffee beans, coffee grinders, French presses and other coffee-making equipment, and Roasterie’s branded merchandise, including coffee mugs and T-shirts.
Blair Tanner, partner in the Los Angeles-based Tanner & White, developers of Woodside Village, said the focus is not only to invigorate an established urban neighborhood, but also to provide key amenities to residents and tenants in Westwood.
Woodside Village has 91 residential units and is about 75 percent leased. It also has 20,500 square feet of retail, including Blue Sushi Sake Grill and Ulah, a locally owned men’s apparel and accessories store.
The Roasterie, which is celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year, also has cafes in Brookside, Leawood and in its factory at 1204 W. 27th St. Earlier this month, the Roasterie announced plans to open a cafe in the new Corrigan Station at 1828 Walnut St.
“We’ve been patient. We haven’t passed on any great locations. I think it is just coincidence that they are opening at the same time,” O’Neill said. “About a year and a half ago everything started breaking loose, and we have seen some good opportunities.”