A wave of pastel hues washes over the walls of Lauren Alexandra's two elegant boutiques, where baby and maternity specialist Pamela Dicapo has been outfitting infants, toddlers, and their parents with upscale accessories since 1994. Newborn essentials—stuffed animals, baby-talk translators, and blankets from brands such as My Blankee and Little Giraffe—share colorful shelf space with apparel from European clothiers such as CakeWalk and Catimini. The shops brim with a bevy of accouterments, and Pamela's passion for all things baby-related extends beyond her store. She and her supporting crew travel to parents’ homes to cultivate domestic comfort with professional room design services, harnessing their decorating finesse to help parents select soothing, kid-friendly wall treatments, furniture, and carpet.
One nippy Tuesday morning, Oliver H. Gerry swung open a set of doors inside the Grand Avenue Temple in downtown Kansas City. It was January 23, 1912, and that unfurled entranceway symbolized the first day Gerry Optical was open for business. In the 100 years since, professionally trained technicians have prepared eyewear to complement the styles of countless clients, including President Harry Truman and Senator Nancy Kassebaum. Today, each of the store's nine locations carries between 800 and 1,200 frames from brands such as Calvin Klein, Ray-Ban, Prada, and BCBG, and the flagship store on 75th Street also houses its own grinding lab to quickly custom-craft lenses and fix cracks after cartoon eye-popping mishaps. To honor its deep community roots, Gerry Optical gives back by partnering with Lions Clubs International to provide discount eye exams and eyeglasses to underprivileged families.
First Chair Fiddlers' founder, Rachel Gaither, leads a team of professional musicians and songwriters who teach students of all ages how to make beautiful music using pianos, guitars, violins, and the sound of their own voice. The team's collective résumé includes gigs playing in Celtic folk bands, opera performances across the country, and stints on New York City's singer-songwriter circuit. Under the team's guidance, kids and adults alike study the finer points of singing and playing various instruments, and later show off their newfound talents during summertime open-mic concerts, recitals, and impromptu 3 a.m. performances on their neighbors' front lawns. The teachers at First Chair Fiddlers also offer aspiring musicians advice on topics such as crafting a moving song or keeping a band together through lineup changes.
With its showroom's contemporary setup and staff's personalized attention, Romanelli Optix diverges from the average optical center. Backed by more than 25 years of combined experience, Roman Beznovsky and Felix Milman opened the first Romanelli Optix in 2004. Today, the duo populates three Kansas City–area locations with frames in more than 60 brands such as Maui Jim, Tiffany & Co., and Fendi. At each location, customers are guided carefully through the options based on a variety of factors, including their prescriptions and facial features. Onsite adjustments make the process even easier, including meticulous custom-cut assembly performed in nearby boutiques.
In 1988, potter Michael Smith invited a small group of peers to his home to share ideas and further explore the art of clay manipulation. After just a few meetings, the group quickly grew to include around 70 craftspeople, who started meeting at the Kansas City Art Institute instead of inside Smith's giant conch shell. These regular get-togethers laid the groundwork for the initial incarnation of KC Clay Guild, a place where artists could socialize, buy materials in bulk, and learn from one another.
Now, the volunteer-run co-op is even larger. It occupies its own facility and has vastly expanded the number of services it provides. Amidst the changes, KC Clay Guild has remained true to its initial goals, guided by a mission statement to support the clay community. Artists of all skill levels enroll in classes that cover an array of techniques, such as wheel throwing, hand building, and slip casting. Members take part in regular meetings, open-studio time, and monthly shows, and visiting artists stop by to lead workshops and repair their ceramic automobiles. The guild even offers a scholarship to high-school seniors and hosts birthday parties, team-building exercises, and family-fun nights for casual potters.