U-News is supporting Kansas City’s local business scene with a weekly column featuring businesses and their responses to COVID-19.
This week: 5B&Co. Candlemakers, Messenger Coffee, Prairie Point Quilt & Fabric Shop, Mills Record Company and KC Soul Sistas.
Lori Woods expanded 5B&Co. Candlemakers into the Brookside neighborhood 16 years ago and has been pouring sweet scents ever since.
Under Kansas City’s stay-at-home order, Woods sent her staff home and poured made-to-order candles for every order, leaving bags at the door for customers to grab and delivering online orders.
“For the first two weeks, it was just myself because we just wanted to keep everybody at home,” Woods said. “I have two employees here helping me this week because when you make your product and nobody’s there to make it, then you fall behind.”
With a collection of 175 fragrances used in her products, Woods is grateful for her customers’ understanding when she runs into shortages or other delays.
“Many of our orders online are people that may not even need candles, they’re just doing it to support me,” Woods said. “We’ve got such a loyal group of people.”
Messenger Coffee Co.
Messenger Coffee Co.’s two-story downtown building is usually a place for gathering, but under COVID-19 restrictions, the Kansas City coffee giant is embracing online ordering.
While Messenger, which houses Ibis Bakery in its downtown location, has experienced a cut to revenue with a shortage in wholesale orders, their online orders have grown, said Messenger Coffee Co. President Isaac Hodges.
Hodges said Messenger employees and DoorDash drivers are hand-delivering bakery items and coffee, hot and cold, within a five-mile radius of the store.
“Those online orders have allowed us to continue roasting and producing coffee at a much less staggering rate,” Hodges said.
Hodges said that while Filling Station’s Crown Center location is closed, its Westport location is doing more business than they did this time last year due to its drive-through. Filling Station’s two other locations in Midtown and Mission, Kansas, are operating with online pick-up coffee orders.
Black Dog is operating a full kitchen and coffee bar while using their bakery space next door as a pick-up location for online orders to protect employees’ health.
Fervere in the Westside is operating normally, as the bakery uses a model in which customers call in orders for pick-up.
Hodges said employees are able to work at any location owned by Messenger.
“Delivery orders are going crazy, so we’ve had to staff more people, and it’s awesome to bring people back to work,” Hodges said.
Prairie Point Quilt & Fabric Shop
At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in Kansas City, Prairie Point Quilt & Fabric Shop owners Susan and John Thorup transformed their shop into a mask production zone.
“100% of our customers sew, so we invited anybody that had extra fabric in their stash to start making these masks,” said co-owner John Thorup. “The customer that presented the idea to us comes by once or twice a week to pick up the masks to take down to KU Medical Center.”
Thorup estimates the shop has made close to 2,000 masks in a month, which are distributed to KU Medical Center, other area healthcare organizations and even funeral homes.
“Our customers are just thrilled that they have a talent to be able to help out,” Thorup said.
Thorup said Prairie Point is still open to customers, but they’ve limited their hours since most of their customers are elderly or retired. Customers can still order online or via phone for delivery or curbside pick-up.
“All small businesses, we’re all in the same boat wondering, ‘are we going to be able to make all of this up?’” Thorup said. “We can’t wait to get back to work.”
Mills Record Company
For Mills Record Company in Westport, COVID-19 has forced the storefront to close, but owner Judy Mills still sees opportunities to kindle her customers’ passion for music.
Mills let her employees choose between staying home and working to fill online orders. With most of her employees home now, Mills is one of a team of two filling all orders.
Mills, who also owns Wise Blood Booksellers in Westport, said her customers are being as supportive as they can by purchasing gift certificates and ordering online.
While new records are sold through the Mills Record Company website, Mills is utilizing social media as a selling tool for used records. Buyers can sift through Instagram listings and message the Mills Record Company account to purchase items.
“One of the things we do best here is help people discover new music, and we can’t do that now, but now more than ever people need music in their lives,” Mills said.
Through online sales, social media interaction and IGTV content, Mills hopes to provide an outlet for customers to discover new music for their time in quarantine.
KC Soul Sistas
The KC Soul Sistas food truck is a Kansas City staple for comfort food with classics like wings, baked beans, greens and peach cobbler.
As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, KC Soul Sistas has remained mostly closed, said owner Zelda Johnson.
Johnson, who also offers catering and delivery services, has two major accounts with the Kansas City Board of Education and the Marine Corps in South Kansas City. With these institutions closed or operating irregularly, Johnson said her small business is hurting.
“It’s a family business, so it’s hurting us,” Johnson said. “My kids have to go find jobs to support their households. It’s just a waiting game.”
Currently, KC Soul Sistas is operating periodically and offering customers the option to pre-order carry-out meals.
For updates on KC Soul Sistas’ business and truck locations, follow their Facebook page.