What's Your KCQ?

Leeds revisited: KCQ reader shares memories of life at general store, fire station

Early-1900s photograph of the Leeds Pharmacy and Hotel on E. 37th Street, across from Polfer & Renick.
Early-1900s photograph of the Leeds Pharmacy and Hotel on E. 37th Street, across from Polfer & Renick.

A recent “What’s Your KCQ?” story about the history of Kansas City’s Leeds neighborhood brought back fond memories for many former residents. Some reached out to us with additional information and photos illuminating life in long-ago Leeds.

“What’s Your KCQ?” is an ongoing series in which The Star and the Kansas City Public Library partner to answer reader questions about our region.

Lenexa resident Marilyn Schlosser, whose husband Bruce has family ties to Leeds, offered details on an early business there — Polfer & Renick.

Bruce Schlosser’s grandmother, Susie Polfer, had two sisters who married into the Renick family — early landowners and settlers of Leeds.

Susie’s brother Mitch partnered with their brother-in-law, William Renick, to open the Polfer & Renick General Merchandise store at the northeast corner of 37th Street and Leeds Avenue (now Fuller Avenue).

Polfer_Renick_Merch.jpg
Early-1900s photograph of the Polfer & Renick General Store in Leeds. Courtesy of Marilyn and Bruce Schlosser

Renick’s youngest daughter, Anna Renick Lueders, spent her childhood in Leeds and around her father’s store. As an adult, she recounted these experiences in a self-published family memoir.

The Polfer & Renick store

One of her favorite childhood memories, Lueders wrote, was “getting into things” at the store — especially the candy counter. She recalled with delight opening the sliding door and reaching inside the glass case to select pieces of her favorite candy.

Nearby was a grocery store where she and her friends purchased another coveted treat: ice cream.

Lueders wrote that she frequently begged her father for a nickel to buy an ice cream cone and, “being the good dad that he was, he usually obliged.”

Leeds Pharmacy.jpg
Early-1900s photograph of the Leeds Pharmacy and Hotel on E. 37th Street, across from Polfer & Renick. Courtesy of Marilyn and Bruce Schlosser

The Polfer & Renick store at various times housed the Leeds post office, a barber shop and a meat market. Reflecting on the diversity of goods and services, Lueders wrote that “you could get your meat from Joe, the butcher, get your hair cut by my uncle, Mitch, pick up your mail, buy your groceries and dry goods, and visit with your friends and neighbors all at one time.”

Before a government post office opened in Leeds in 1925, mail was processed at the general store.

When a bag of outgoing letters was ready, it was hung on a post next to the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway tracks, where it was snatched up by a worker on a passing train. The same worker threw a bag of incoming mail off the train without it stopping.

Fire station showers

Lueders described the social life of Leeds residents as revolving mostly around church, the fire station and her family’s store.

A popular activity among the men was meeting at the fire station to play dominoes. Some would bathe there as well, finding it more convenient than taking baths in the tiny kitchen tubs found in most Leeds homes.

Fire Wagon.jpg
Early-1900s photograph of Leeds firefighters and a fire wagon outside the Polfer & Renick General Store. Courtesy of Marilyn and Bruce Schlosser

When she was older, Lueders sorted mail, cut hair and performed other odd jobs at the store. She was later employed as a cashier at the Blue Valley Bank in Leeds.

She married business owner John F. Lueders in 1942 and soon after, started a family.

The Polfer and Renick families continued to operate several businesses through the mid-20th century, remaining prominent members of the Leeds community.

BEHIND OUR REPORTING

How does KCQ work?

The Star and the Kansas City Public Library are interested in answering your questions about KC. Submit your questions on The Star’s or the Library’s website. (See the module below.) Then we will investigate and report out the answers to your KC curiosities. We’ll show you who we talked to and how we found the answer. We’ll also teach you about the available resources. Read more by clicking the arrow in the upper right.

How did KCQ get started?

The Star started its relationship with the Kansas City Public Library through its work with the News Co/Lab at Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. We are working with ASU to educate the public on how journalism happens, how stories are reported and the importance of transparency in our work.

Do you have a question?

Marilyn and Bruce Schlosser shared their family history and provided the research material and photos for this story after reading an earlier KCQ about the history of Leeds.

Do you have a burning question about the Kansas City area? Tell us in the module below or click here if you are unable to see the module.

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