This Ain’t No Musical

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Historic 17th & Summit, Westside, antiques, t-shirt shop, Ocean&Sea, Sandlot Goods, Charlie Hustle, Hugo Tea, Trapp Candles





No, you won’t spot any dance-fighting-rival-gangs in Westside Storey. Unless it’s on an old Broadway poster for “Westside Story”—this shop deals in antiques, gifts and design, you know? The clever play on the smash-hit show’s title actually derives from the Kansas City, Mo., neighborhood it calls home.


Oh, the lovely little Westside. You might find yourself stumbling over cracks in 80-year-old concrete floors or glimpsing a row of brand new, modern homes painted a vivid orange or adorned with bright silver tiles. Driving up the 17th Street hill toward Summit Street invokes a gleeful, giddy feeling. First, a triple-take as you tool past the grand red-brick Jefferson Street century old manors, and suddenly, POOF! Funky boutiques, fabulous food, a Hispanic market and an old theater-turned-creperie: all at the 17th and Summit corner where the Westside Storey stands.


In solidarity with this giddy glee, USA Today selected the Westside for a top 10 spot on its Up-and-Coming Neighborhoods List—two years running! Which, considering the options span the entire Unites States, is quite an honor. “The Westside neighborhood,” writes Leif Petterson on this decision “… has filled up with pioneering urban dwellers of various ethnicities and infused life into the area.” And ain’t that the truth! The little neighborhood that could began the very way Petterson describes. At its inception in the late 1800s, and for many decades following, the area was home to diligent, hard-working folk of diverse culture and socio-economic standing.


"Doorway to nowhere - all that remains of a Mulkey Square (Westside) house that stood in the path of a new expressway" -U.S. National Archives and Records
“Doorway to nowhere – all that remains of a Mulkey Square (Westside) house that stood in the path of a new expressway” -U.S. National Archives and Records


Eventual highway projects in the 1970s bulldozed many houses down, forcing families out of the neighborhood. Construction halted the success and desirability of the Westside for several years. People not forced out and who’d choose to live amidst a colossal and enduring highway construction were few and far between. But these days, the neighborhood has again found its niche. And it’s more attractive and highly sought-after than ever. Establishments of all styles are cropping up—and succeeding. It’s nice, too, that many of these are owned by Westsiders themselves; the ‘hood’s sense of community is unrivaled in Kansas City. The citizenry and businesses are as integrated and tight-knit as they were more than a century ago.


Westside Storey is an impeccable example. The owner: Westside resident and Kansas City enthusiast Chris Harrington. Deciding the area needed some retail therapy amongst the many food and drink venues, Harrington set up shop in 2012. The variety store on the southeast corner of 17th and Summit streets created a true destination for visitors. Now, more retail stores are migrating to this growing district, following the Storey’s bold initiative.


Harrington transformed what was first, in the 1920s and ‘30s, a clothing shop run by a Mr. Victor Stern. The Hungary native immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. Before Stern & Co., he worked first with Woolf Manufacturing, and then opened a furniture shop at 1023 W. 17th St., only a stone’s throw from Westside Storey’s doors. The old concrete floors and original foundation remain, though the installation of an entirely glass front façade is more recent. Where one once found “Dresses and Furnishings,” such as silky fur coats or sensible shoes at Stern & Co., one may now find anything from old rusty bells to cartographically outmoded globes, even an ancient cash till—a mammoth entity shrouded with dust from years of non-use. In the starkest of comparisons, Westside Storey also doles out the brand spanking new goods, hot off the press…


The T-shirt press, that is.




There’s a mad craze for Kansas City apparel goin’ on, and plenty of local companies—most of which print right here in town—satiate the demand. T-shirts have been around the block a few times. The military unknowingly created the trend, when in the early 1900s T-shirts became an honorary member of the government-issued uniforms. Some years later, in A Streetcar Named Desire, the suave film icon Mr. Marlon Brando sported a tee as a shirt, rather than just an undershirt (how men traditionally wore them); his fame incited and cemented the T-shirt-as-fashionable movement. The oft-quoted “HEY STELLAAAA!!” line from Streetcar credit goes to Brando, as well. *SWOON*




The T-shirt evolved into a means of expression and promotion, from political affiliation to brand names and anything in between. It remains a staple in your everyday American’s wardrobe, and the biggest local brands are now a mainstay in countless Kansas Citian’s closets. West Side Storey (true to its neighborhood’s support-the-community mindset) partners with several tee vendors, including Ocean&Sea, Sandlot Goods and Charlie Hustle.




This joint placates any age, personality or taste—where else can one purchase an original framed Rebel Without A Cause movie poster, vintage silver-plated wind chimes, a tin of Hugo Tea and a fragrant Trapp candle (both produced right here in Kansas City)? The owner and crew are pleasant and welcoming, and more than willing to strike up conversation, help you carry a heavy purchase to your car or regale you with the history of one of their many antiques. Basically what I’m saying, is that with a trip to Westside Storey, you just can’t lose.


…Unless we’re talking about money. It’s alarmingly easy to spend it here.