When hungry Kansas Citians need a lazy night in, they often reach for the phone. They know a wide variety of local pizza places are ready to deliver cheesy goodness to their doorsteps.
Unless they live east of Troost Avenue.
While national chains Papa John's and Domino's will deliver east of Troost, many local pizza places won't.
Minsky's on Main Street won't go there. Pizza 51 sits three blocks away from Troost at 51st and Oak — it won't deliver there either. Neither will Pickleman's. Sarpino's Pizza in Midtown will, maybe.
Earlier this year, our staff called every locally owned pizza place in the Midtown area — from 31st to 63rd — asking for delivery to the east side. At first request, we generally got a "no." However after further investigation, we did find exceptions.
In the case of Sarpino's, owner Andrew Porter says he has an obligation to keep his employees safe, which is why they do not deliver east of Troost at night.
Sarpino's doesn't want to take any risks, especially after its Westport location was robbed by three gunmen in October 2014.
He also says delivering to Kansas City's east side isn't very profitable.
"In the whole scheme of things, it's a small percentage," says Porter, adding that customers on the east side are welcome to call Sarpino's during the day for delivery.
With student housing for the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Rockhurst University scattered throughout the Troostwood neighborhood, it would seem pizza delivery would not only be profitable, but necessary. Next to ramen noodles, pizza is a staple of the college diet.
"I've ordered Domino's, but it's the only pizza place that delivers east of Troost besides Pickleman's," says UMKC student Annie Murphy, who lives on Lydia Avenue, a few blocks east of Troost.
Pickleman's broke the boycott by accident, says Murphy. "It's a secret." she says. "They accidentally delivered a while ago and they're not supposed to. So now my neighbor harasses them if they won't."
When we asked Pickleman's for delivery east of Troost, the answer was no. After mentioning that a neighbor on Lydia received Pickleman's before, the phone was put on hold. The employee came back and changed his answer.
Once you deliver to one house on the east side, the whole block is going to want a piece of the pie.
Minsky's Pizza has been part of the Kansas City dining scene for almost 40 years. If you call Minsky's in South Plaza they say that they won't deliver east of Troost, but that's not always the case.
According to Kenny Kantner, partner and general manager of Minsky's Pizza South Plaza, delivery boundaries were set up 30 years ago.
"We can't expand the range anymore than it is," says Kantner. His drivers can handle only so many orders at a time, he says. There may be exceptions, though. "When we're not super busy, we'll go out of range."
Kantner says he understands why some drivers don't want to travel east of Troost. He lived there at one point and experienced the same issues when it came to ordering pizza.
"I get problems trying to get drivers over there," he adds.
He says he adds a discount to regulars from the east side who come in for pick-up orders. And Kantner says some of his drivers will meet residents half-way.
"We'll meet them at Go-Chicken-Go or gas stations," he says.
He says that when drivers travel to the east side, they'll take down the company sign on top of the car to avoid attention — both for safety reasons and to avoid others in the neighborhood from ordering pizza.
He adds that once you make an exception for one block, the next one will want one too.
In short, Minsky's, Pickleman's, and Sarpino's ask employees to turn down east-side callers, but the chance of getting delivery depends on the situation. It's possible that one driver will break the boundary, but that doesn't mean they all will. Sometimes it gets too busy for pizzerias to expand.
The community responds
The lack of pizza delivery options to the east side has been an issue for decades. In his book Some of My Best Friends Are Black, Tanner Colby calls it racism.
"I guess black people rob delivery guys too, because you can't get a decent pizza delivered over there to save your life," he writes. "All the good pizza places are west of Troost, and they won't deliver east of Troost. They'll go across State Line into Kansas, but not across the Berlin Wall."
The Troost Plateau Neighborhood Association, located on the east side near Rockhurst, discussed this issue during a recent monthly meeting.
"I think it's exactly one thing: fear of the unknown," Bart Hoff, president of the association, said at the meeting. "There is absolutely no legitimacy in reinforcing that red line."
Hoff suggested businesses need to change the way they view Troost.
"There's a general perception that everyone else doesn't deliver to Troost. We want to prove them wrong," he said.
He hopes that if more managers change their policies, others will follow.
Les Cline of the 49/63 Coalition, a neighborhood organization spanning both sides of Troost, wants to "open a dialogue" with local businesses.
"We want to be fair to business owners," Cline says. "They have their reasons and those reasons aren't always nefarious."
Both Hoff and Cline mentioned that crime rates were dropping in their neighborhoods.
"Crime isn't as significant (a problem) as they think it is," says Cline.
Crime has been decreasing in the area since 2006. Homicide on the east side was nearly cut in half from 2013 to 2014.
"We've had no increase in robberies or strong arm robberies involving a delivery driver," says Kari Thompson of the Kansas City Police Department. "I think those places are still in the past."
This story is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.
We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them. Become a source for KCUR as we investigate Johnson and Wyandotte Counties.