Story and photos by Shana Siren Kempton
At sunset on a typical weekday evening on Gregory Boulevard, the owner of Governor Stumpy’s, Kevin Ryan, stands outside chatting and laughing with regulars. A warm glow through the windows of Geo’s Cheese reveals a small gathering of men, drinks in hand, as owner Spencer Woodard offers a chunk of aged white cheddar to a young customer. A client sits in a salon chair getting her hair styled at Studio 213. Music emanates from Create Space KC, drawing in curious passersby including Barb Vogt, who brought her daughter to the drop in dance party. Vogt marvels, “How awesome is it that we can walk from home to the Bier Station and the bakery? And now we have this creative space …My daughter doesn’t realize that not all neighborhoods are like this.”
The end of an era for longtime Waldo businesses located on Gregory just west of Oak means the beginning of a fresh and longed-for blend of eclectic energy. The doors are now open at Athletico Physical Therapy, Brookside Ceramics, Green Utopia, and Create Space KC. Front Range Coffeehouse and Provisions will open its second location in early 2022 to bring even more variety to this north Waldo neighborhood.
A stroll down Gregory
Athletico Physical Therapy – Starting at 333 Gregory, the southwest corner of Oak and Gregory in what was home to Swyden Cleaners for decades, stands Athletico Physical Therapy. The expansive windows of the 2,000 sq ft space allow walkers-by to see rehab in action and to receive a friendly smile from clinic manager and physical therapist Kate Hickerson. “It’s such a walkable area with a lot of community pride,” says Hickerson of the new location. Athletico is a 30-year-old company based in Chicago with plans to have 19 operating clinics in the Kansas City area by year’s end.
Brookside Ceramics – Next door, studio owner, Sadie Johnson, puts the finishing touches on a life-size paper mache tree inside Brookside Ceramics, 329-A Gregory. A neighborhood resident for 21 years, Johnson struggled to find nearby places for her kids’ birthday parties. This space draws upon her background in art to fill a missing niche. A gathering place where whimsy can fly like the paper cranes adorning the ceiling, the colorful studio offers a large collection of premade bisque ceramic pieces waiting to be painted and fired in the kiln for memorable keepsakes. “I just want it to be a relaxing, magical space that provides stimulation for creativity and kids with a good memory,” says Johnson. The studio is open for walk-ins, a weekly ladies’ night, birthday parties, and other functions.
Green Utopia – On the backside of Brookside Ceramics is Green Utopia, the brainchild of Gabriella Sanders who is passionate about all things green. Sanders says “my focus is getting each family eco-friendly and bringing that awareness to everything.” After four years of doing business out of a vintage camper, Sanders is ecstatic about her return to a brick and mortar shop. The shop offers carefully curated items from local makers and beyond that all have a green component such as the bags she sews from discarded billboard signs. Sanders will host free workshops on recycling and green living.
Create Space KC – Closer to McClain’s in what was once home to Betty and Lorna’s dance school, Create Space KC, 209 Gregory, provides new experiences in movement, art, and self-care for all ages. Founder Meghan Throckmorton has assembled a top-notch group of instructors who offer weekly classes such as beginning ukulele, parent/child drawing, and ballroom dancing. There’s even a “Frivolous Endeavors” open gym for juggling enthusiasts and a “Goodnight Yoga” for kids. Throckmorton, who also teaches at the Nelson Atkins Fine Arts Museum says, “I’ve noticed that students who struggle to express themselves with words often find their voice in the arts. I want to provide a wide range of creative opportunities so everyone finds a way to feel heard.”
The grand opening celebration for Brookside Ceramics and Green Utopia is on Saturday, November 27th from 9-6 and will include samples and giveaways.