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Black History Month on Missouri's Main Streets

February 29, 2024 | Logan Breer

As the 38th President of the United States, President Gerald Ford, once said “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That is exactly what we should do in February for National Black History Month and every day of the year. Every American citizen should be acknowledged for their contribution to their country as well as their local community.

The dreams and goals of black-owned businesses and black-founded organizations create stronger and more vibrant historic commercial districts where dreams are pursued to create jobs and economic mobility, and future generations are empowered to make a difference in their community. Across Missouri there are amazing businesses and organizations located in Main Street communities that are outstanding partners and true downtown institutions that have the support of the community. The following businesses and organizations are a sample of those who leave their mark in the places they are located in.

The Art School KC was the first organization in Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street (DLSM) that Donnie Rodger’s thought of when asked about organizations in their downtown district to amplify for Black History Month based upon their impact on the Lee’s Summit community and partnership with DLSM. Art School KC, established in 2020 in downtown Lee’s Summit, is a dynamic creative hub fostering community connections among art enthusiasts of all ages. Allen Rendell is the Creative Director and Founder of Art School KC and shared with us about the organization, “Our vision centers on community upliftment through elevated single art lessons and ongoing courses, aiming to empower artists to refine their craft and discover their unique voices. We passionately believe in the transformative power of education. Alongside diverse art courses and workshops, Art School KC showcases local artists in its gallery, fostering a vibrant local art scene. Our active partnerships with local businesses and engagement in community events reflect our commitment to bringing visual art into the heart of Lee’s Summit.”

The arts are a vital component to Main Street as we engage in design initiatives that beautify a historic commercial district. One way this is accomplished is through public art and if you have been to Downtown Lee’s Summit you know, through the impact of Art School KC and DLSM, there are plenty of pieces of public art displayed to make visiting the district enjoyable and to learn about the heart of the people that call Lee’s Summit home.

Delmar Main Street has been hard at work in identifying and cultivating solutions to remedy local economic inequity, reduce gentrification, and create an entrepreneurial ecosystem for all since becoming a Main Street program through MMSC’s St. Louis Main Streets pilot program. One of the latest and exciting developments for food enthusiasts and St. Louis’ culinary scene was the grand opening of Beyond Sweet Kitchen and Bar. Beyond Sweet is a luxurious restaurant founded by Dallas Holland, who Lisa Potts said is “a visionary.” Dallas shared that with Beyond Sweet she “aims to redefine dining experiences in the city of St. Louis by combining exquisite flavors, artistic presentation, and a commitment to inclusivity and excellence.”

Check out Beyond Sweet Kitchen and Bar the next time you are in St. Louis where they still offer over the top ice cream shakes that originally placed Beyond Sweet in a national spotlight. 

In 2023, Hackett Hot Wings celebrated their 20th anniversary! This is a phenomenal accomplishment that our staff is very excited to highlight. Hackett Hot Wings was the first recommendation from Downtown Joplin’s Executive Director Lori Haun and Programming and Marketing Director Ivy Hagedorn as they remarked, “Hackett Hot Wings is a true downtown institution.” After speaking with Jacquelin Hackett herself I am blown away! Her and her husband’s story is phenomenal, so please read their full story written by Jacqueline here (link to PDF). In short, Floyd and Jacqueline brought the Hot Wing phenomenon from Memphis to Joplin in 2003 at their original location at 1301 Broadway where their capacity was 30 people. In 2008 their business continued to grow as more guests wanted their wings. They moved to their current downtown Joplin location at 520 S. Main which increased their seating five-fold with a regular dining seating downstairs and private party rooms upstairs. Then they purchased the adjacent building in 2015 which added a second dining room and a full sports room.

Their success was showcased on Americas Best Restaurants. Check out that video feature here (link to swimming in the sauce). I spoke with Jacqueline right before Super Bowl LVIII where she projected that they would, “cook and sell 16,000 hot wings.” If that is not true restaurant success I don’t know what is! An astonishing 7,000 of those hot wings would be picked up prior to the game through their sign-up sheet ordering system that has been a Super Bowl tradition for 19 years.

These three highlights are just the tip of the iceberg. Across the state, individuals contribute their unique talents and businesses for the success of their dreams and as a result of the success of Missouri’s historic commercial districts overall. Truly we are better when we come together.  If your business or organization is located in a Main Street community that has an agreement with MMSC, contact Logan Breer at logan@momainstreet.org for information on how to be highlighted in future #Mainstreetmonday posts as they are relevant.

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