If anybody embraces the concept of Kismet, it’s David Ford and Adam Jones, two of Kansas City’s most free-spirited originals.
They have combined to find a new home for YJ’s Snack Bar in the former Sylvia’s Deli space at 1746 Washington, just a few blocks west of the old YJ’s location at 128 W. 18th.
“It was incredibly perfect timing,” Jones said. “It was the coolest home run we could ever hit. It all came together in about five seconds.”
Ford was searching for a new home for the iconic Crossroads cafe and gathering spot he’d been operating since 1999 after a new owner bought the building.
The new landlord and Ford differ over the circumstances of his departure, but regardless, he needed a new space. Jones, a board member of the Westside Housing Organization, was seeking a tenant to replace Sylvia’s. Westside Housing owns the old (1903) Nottingham Hotel where the deli was located.
“Overnight, David’s (YJ) deal went south and all of a sudden, I realized David was screwed,” Jones said. “And we had this space.”
It was a perfect alignment of the planets, fate or Kismet, however you want to put it.
Westside was looking for a business or activity that would activate the corner retail space and provide room for community meetings.
Ford was completely on board.
“Westside Housing has been doing an excellent job,” he said.
A crew was building a new counter for the restaurant as he took in his new domain. Jones already had removed the old false ceiling, revealing bright transom windows and the original 17-foot ceiling.
Ford was particularly pleased the new place has two handicapped accessible restrooms. It also has several fruit trees outside and a garden.
And the musicians will have more room to swing their instruments and the cooks more space to wield their kitchen knives.
Some of his art objects already were on the walls including African masks, portraits of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and shelves loaded with books. A faint scent of incense was in the air.
The new space not only will have a roomier restaurant, but a gallery next door for Ford’s art, a studio where he can create and living quarters for him in one of the apartments upstairs.
And the spirit of the original YJ’s, now rechristened YJ’s Snack Bar and Community Center, lives on.
Last Saturday evening, three New Orleans-style krewes came marching down Washington to serenade his new place with drums, horns, including two sousaphones, dancers and flags.
“We had a hundred people around the shop,” Ford said. “I was crying for only the second time in 20 years.”
Ford said he wants the new YJ’s to be “congruous” with what people experienced at the old.
“The big buzz word is we’re still on 18th Street,” he said. “It’s back to an ethos I believe in.”
Ford was reluctant to predict when the new restaurant will be open, although he said people are welcome to stop by anytime for a cup of coffee.
Jones however, said he expects it to be completed in about two weeks.
“Now he has a forever lease, he won’t get kicked out again,” Jones said. “We’re as excited as we could be and David’s excited too.”
Kevin Collison, a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3, writes about downtown Kansas City for his website CityScene KC.