By Don Bradley
If you’re looking for a location landmark, “Right across from Jess and Jim’s” in Martin City is a pretty good one. Every carnivore in the metro area knows the famous steakhouse.
And right across the street is the Little Green Acre.
A century old, the clapboard structure was built to serve as a stopover station for railroad workers.
They didn’t have far to walk.
The crews would eat, sleep, clean up and wait for their next train duty to roll into town. The building would be repurposed over the years, most recently as Rooms That Bloom antique store.
Mike and Debbie Van Noy, owners of Jess and Jim’s, which opened in 1938, bought the building because they didn’t want it torn down. It fits the old neighborhood. Next door is the Martin City Bank building which dates to 1909.
Doris Graves had her eye on the Blooms building for a while and when it became available she jumped.
She’s convinced the 1920s two-story house with its historic charm and back story, stained glass, fine woodwork and just a short walk to restaurants and nightspots would make a perfect Airbnb for the flourishing Martin City neighborhood.
Making It Against the Odds
Graves grew up in what she calls “the hood,” the seventh of a dozen kids. Her father used to send her to the liquor store to get him a bottle. A big one. She joined the Army to get away, served as a medic, became a “junker” which led to a West Bottoms store described by The New York Times as a “big score” and from that she started staging million-dollar homes in Mission Hills.
“I was just a junker and these people used to tell me I ought to be staging houses full time,” she said. “I didn’t have formal education. Somebody said I should be a set designer. I didn’t know what a set designer was.”
But she knew early on she wanted a career, to do something special with her life.
“My mother stayed home, didn’t work, didn’t even drive,” she said. “When she tried to learn she drove our station wagon into the neighbor’s house.”
Doris got that career. Army medic, New York Times, million-dollar houses, some of her staging projects appeared in Parade of Homes.
Good friend Pam Renner said she would not hesitate to advise out-of-town relatives to stay at the Little Green Acre.
“Doris always saw what the rest of us didn’t,” said Renner, who worked with Doris in the West Bottoms. “Where anybody else saw empty space, Doris saw a gathering place.
“She’s been through a lot and still going.”
In 2008, Doris was struck by a car. Badly injured, she got hooked on opiates and then alcohol. She was a mess until the day she looked at herself in the mirror.
“Doris, what are you doing?” she said she asked herself. “I was thinking of all the people in my life who went that way. I saw disgust with myself.”
She refuses to let that time define her.
“Just like the song,” she said. “I was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”
Doris grew up a city girl, her husband Jeff grew up a country boy, sort of like Lisa and Oliver in the old TV sitcom Green Acres. That’s where they got the name.
She might even use the history as a draw. Lots of train people out there.
With all the history, the place actually gives off a bit of a contemporary urban vibe.
In the Heart of Martin City
An upstairs bedroom lends a view of the outdoor seating at Jess and Jim’s across the street. On a recent night, the Chiefs were playing and the patio was bleacher loud, particularly on a 99-yard pick six in the fourth quarter.
Plenty of restaurants and nightspots are close by. Barbecue, a brewery, ice cream. People walk. There’s music.
Doris’s place is what you might think: Every room a testament to a proprietor who turned junking into an art form. Clean, comfortable, a thousand things look like they were made to sit where they sit. Some ceilings are painted black. It works. A bathroom floor slants, pleasingly so.
Can you hear trains?
Yes. When you’re awake.
When you’re asleep? For now, maybe. Might depend on how long you spent at the pub.
This might work, put your head on the pillow and think about those railroad guys a hundred years ago in the same room.
A Johnny Cash song comes to mind.
1 thought on “A place to stay in downtown Martin City: Decorator opens AirBnB”
Gosh, I hope JOHN SHARP doesn’t try to shut her down!! Oh wait, he only opposes “young people” trying to create STR businesses in South KC. *eye roll*