New locally-owned Crossroads venue features artisan coffee, bread and pastries

A look inside the Messenger Coffee Co. building

Messenger Coffee Co. and Ibis Bakery open a new café in the Crossroads district.
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Messenger Coffee Co. and Ibis Bakery open a new café in the Crossroads district.

The owners of Messenger Coffee Co. and Ibis Bakery spent three years renovating a Crossroads building that would showcase both businesses.

They could hardly wait to get it open, and when it debuted Saturday, their customers were ready, too. A line stretched out the door and down the block all day as customers ordered such items as almond raspberry petit fours, caramelized wine and mousse tarts, fresh-milled spelt baguette, tartines, and fresh-milled croissants (made with 100 percent Kansas organic grown wheat, milled onsite). But new items will be introduced weekly.

“It’s been a lot of work but our ethos is: we really wanted to do things right,” said partner Trevor Welch. “It started with the seed of a dream — to do coffee and bread at the highest level we can. A collaborative effort made it happen.”

Welch was roasting coffee and selling the beans to friends while working on a business plan for a coffee and bread company with Chris Matsch. Then they partnered with Kiersten Rex (now Messenger’s head roaster), Nick Robertson (head of quality control and coffee buying) and Chris’ brother, Matt, to form Messenger Coffee Co. in late 2012.

One of their first big clients was Lenexa’s Black Dog Coffeehouse, owned by the Chris and Matt’s parents. About the same time, Chris Matsch and his wife, Kate, founded Ibis Bakery, which quickly gained notice for its artisan toast — inch-thick slabs popped into a double-wide commercial toaster and topped with local and seasonal ingredients.

Welch, who is married to Kate’s sister, Audrey, concentrated on expanding Messenger.

Both companies quickly blossomed.

Messenger has more than 60 wholesale accounts including the Antler Room and Crows Coffee. It has direct trade relationships with farmers in such countries as El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya and Peru.

The partners — along with their friends and family investors — purchased controlling interest in the four area Filling Station coffee shops in 2014, and in 2016 purchased Fervere bakery on the West Side.

For the new Messenger Coffee Co. + Ibis Bakery operation, they looked at more than 40 commercial buildings in the growing Crossroads area. Three years ago they purchased the 12,000-square-foot brick building at 1624 Grand Blvd., on the north edge of the Crossroads and less than two blocks from the Power & Light District.

They said the building, circa 1919, was originally an auto showroom and still has the freight elevator used to bring cars to the second floor. The thick concrete floors are sturdy enough for the coffee roasting and baking equipment. Dunlop tire company later operated in the space and its tiled logo is at the entrance.

The new Dunlop Room adds a third story on top of the building and is designed to be a quieter area than the first two floors. The rooftop also has an outdoor deck with tables and chairs and a fireplace.

The second level, the coffee roasting floor, also is surrounded by seating areas.

The north side of the first floor is for retail, selling Messenger Coffee and Ibis baked goods. The south side, by floor-to-ceiling windows, has a seating area where customers can watch bakery workers. A glass-enclosed mill is in back.

“We wanted to be transparent,” Welch said. “We are working really hard to improve our craft all the time and we want to share that process with the public.”

Joyce Smith: 816-234-4692, @JoyceKC