Cauldron Collective gives Kansas City an anti-capitalist hangout with books and vegan food
A new spot in the Crossroads already offers obscure books and 'this great little collective and ecosystem.' A kitchen offering plant-based eats could open by the end of the year.
A worker-owned, community-centered bookstore and plant-based cafe — manifested by Cauldron Collective and Turnsol Books — is expected to fully open soon in the Crossroads.
“I’ve thought about the space in various ways for my whole life,” said Olive Cooke, self-proclaimed “cooking witch” and co-founder of the Cauldron Collective. “I believe in manifestation, like when we dream of something, believe in those dreams, believe that they’re possible, and follow them.”
Turnsol Books hosted a soft opening over the Oct. 20-22 weekend in the new space — 1664 Broadway Boulevard — next to Stray Cat Film Center. The store is now open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; and Cooke shared that Cauldron Collective plans to open its kitchen by the end of the year. Both businesses started a joint fundraiser to help them with the project.
“We set a goal to try to find a space by the end of the year,” noted Cooke, who launched Cauldron Collective in January 2021 with fellow cooking witches Sylvia Metta and Kim Conyers. “We’ve been doing pop-ups for two years and doing pop-ups was really fun. But it’s also really challenging, working out of different spaces, hauling stuff all over. We knew that we could take it to the next level because of how popular it has been and it will allow us to do more of what we’re wanting.”
Turnsol co-founders Promise Clutter, Cooper Dighton, Dani Cooper, and Tim Harte decided to launch the bookstore earlier this year after having all worked together at another Kansas City record and bookstore. Uniting over their shared value of worker-owned businesses, they teamed up with Cooke — who they knew from Cauldron Collective’s pop-ups at the record store — they shared.
“We’re all big fans of Cauldron Collective,” Dighton noted.
Being next door neighbors with Stray Cat Film Center — an artist-run, non-profit microcinema and community space — is destiny, Cooke said.
“We were all sitting around thinking, ‘You know what would be great? If we could be in that space next to Stray Cat and we could all do stuff together,’” she recalled. “‘You could come and get a book and a sandwich and a cup of coffee and go see a movie and just be at this great little collective and ecosystem.’ Then like a day or two later we saw them post that the space was available, and we were like, ‘Wow, that’s exactly what we wanted.’”
“It was kind of this manifestation of what we wanted, weirdly,” Dighton added.
Being in a vibrant area like the Crossroads Arts District is also exciting, Cooke shared. Her first kitchen job was at the now-shuttered YJ’s and she’s hoping to bring some of that energy back to the neighborhood.
“It’s cool that we’re this anti-capitalist project that has obscure books and movies and vegan food and we’re right across from the Kauffman Center,” she continued. “We’re hoping to get a lot of folks in there and expose them to all of this culture.”
An upcycled exploration
Turnsol is hoping to stock the stores shelves — made from upcycled wood — with a collection of books that is diverse and far-reaching, Dighton and Clutter said, like fiction by LGTBQ, minority, and Native American authors, international works of literature, poetry, philosophy texts, and film books.
“I think we just want to have a really eclectic mix of things to appeal to different audiences,” Dighton noted.
“We definitely want to carry things that people know they’re looking for when they walk in,” Clutter added. “But the best way, I think, to interact with the store is to just come in and explore.”
They also plan to carry works from Turnsol itself, which originally launched as an independent publisher of poetry, visual art, music scores, and prose — Turnsol Editions — in 2013, Clutter shared.
“When you walk in, there is a white box with a green screen-printed cover on it,” she explained. “That is our most recent anthology. If you open it up, it’s very interactive. They’re stuffed envelopes to open. It wasn’t a book. There’s some small books in it, but it’s a collection.”
As for the Cauldron Collective menu, Cooke — who is now working with new team members Kendall Harris and Jaydream — said they are planning to serve many of their classics like sweet potato mac topped with smoked BBQ jackfruit and smoked philly sandwich with soy curls or mushrooms, plus adding salads and breakfast options.
“There’s a lot more possibility here,” she added.
A third space to feel seen
The Cauldron Collective and Turnsol teams both agree that they want the new space to be welcoming and community-centered, they shared.
“Coming from a background of not feeling safe or welcome in a lot of spaces, that seems like the most important thing to do,” Cooke explained. “I’m never gonna make a lot of money in the restaurant industry. I just want to create that space that I always needed — and various places have been that space for me in the past. The more the better, too, I want places like this to be all over the city.”
Clutter said they want the bookstore and cafe to fill the void of community engagement they have been seeking.
“I think for everyone, it’s just having a sense of community,” she continued. “It’s people who are interested in what you’re into or just curious and willing to just kind of meet you on this level.”
“I definitely don’t think of it at all like it’s just our space,” Dighton added.
Book clubs, poetry readings, craft nights, and lectures are among the activities and events planned, they said. Turnsol already kicked off its book club with “Frankenstein” this month; an art lecture for Native American history month is expected in November.
“We want it to be like a third place, where you can come and hang out,” Cooke said. “You don’t have to buy anything. But if you want things like good cheap food and awesome literature, you can find that, too.”