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Black Pantry expands to Troost, setting a 'cornerstone' for a new Black business hub in Kansas City

Brian Roberts, owner of the Black Pantry.
Taylor Wilmore
Startland News
Brian Roberts, owner of the Black Pantry.

After several years inside Made in KC's Midtown market, Brian Roberts is expanding the Black Pantry into its own, 1,500-square-foot storefront on Troost Avenue. The store is expected to feature a retail area with a diverse selection of Black-owned home goods and self care products.

A second location for the Black Pantry is about more than adding a “cool little gift shop” to Troost, said Brian Roberts, detailing his plan for a broader mission: a whole block of Black-owned businesses and a hub for Black entrepreneurs and creatives.

It begins with Roberts’ in-the-works standalone space at 3108 Troost Ave., he said, building on the success he’s had curating products from Black creators for popups, his store with Made in KC’s Midtown neighborhood shop, and online.

“We’ve become a trusted space, where it feels like home,” said Roberts, founder and owner of the Black Pantry. “The art on the walls looks like me, the books on the tables look like me, and the people who work here look like me. So now I have a sense of home, even outside of my home.”

Roberts signed a five-year lease for the 1,500-square-foot space on Troost. As with his other Black Pantry efforts, the store is expected to feature a retail area with a diverse selection of Black-owned home goods and self-care products.

Customers also can expect new elements at the Troost location, Roberts teased, noting plans for a coffee shop, wine bar, and an outside patio for store visitors to enjoy.

“It’s still going to have the same vibe. I want it to be light, bright and colorful,” said Roberts. “I know the core of our business is philanthropic and intentional, but I still want it to be fun.”

Collaboration is key for Roberts as he teams up with local Black-owned businesses to source the new spot — including pastries from The Prospect KC, vegan dishes from Mattie’s Foods, and alcohol from Vine Street Brewing, Rally Gin, and Kin Seltzer.

The Black Pantry's new space at 3108 Troost Avenue.
Taylor Wilmore
Startland News
The Black Pantry's new space at 3108 Troost Avenue.

Roberts also plans to sublease small spaces within the Black Pantry, inspired by successful models like Made in KC, providing an opportunity for businesses to transition from shelf products to owning their space.

“I want to encourage businesses to take the next step. I know it’s scary, so here’s a progressive in-between step so that they have their own sense of ownership,” said Roberts.

With major development projects on Kansas City’s horizon — like the revitalization of Rock Island Bridge, as well as Pennway Point with its KC Wheel — Roberts believes new venues will enhance the city’s entertainment and marketing scene.

Inspired by that spirit of renewal, he said, Roberts aims to create a Black business hub that’s focused on community impact.

“We get the opportunity to build upon all that excitement,” said Roberts. “It takes a lot of us that really come from here to build something that’s impactful for everybody to champion.”

Despite the $162 million, mixed-use Troost Village development — which spans most of one city block across the street from the new Black Pantry space, between 31st and Linwood, from Troost to Forest — Roberts still sees vacant lots along the Troost corridor, he said.

A black tote bag with white letters saying "Elevate Black," inside The Black Pantry location within Made in KC’s Midtown store.
Channa Steinmetz
Startland News
Goods at The Black Pantry location within Made in KC’s Midtown store.

Roberts urged Black-owned businesses to capitalize on this opportunity and contribute to the area’s growth.

“This is the cornerstone, and the true foundation of the community,” said Roberts, seeing the potential of the area with the streetcar’s route passing through, and other community-oriented spaces like Reconciliation Services, Thelma’s Kitchen and Operation Breakthrough.

“The challenge I have with this is getting the city to understand how big of a deal this could be,” said Roberts. “Because my thought is not just one space, my thought is to scale out multiple spaces. So economically, as I scale, all the entrepreneurs scale at the same time.”

And it doesn’t stop with Troost or Kansas City’s east side, he said. The Black Pantry could expand its influence in building out inclusive spaces in the Crossroads and downtown.

Roberts emphasized the impact of Black kids in Kansas City witnessing neighborhoods being rebuilt and re-energized by Black entrepreneurs.

“It’s cool that they get to see these stores coming from people that are from our blocks,” he said.

This story was originally published by Startland News, a fellow member of the KC Media Collective.

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