CommentaryWTEIKC | 27 Feb 2011 08:36 pm

News of SRO Video’s imminent closure kind of made me feel like a good friend died. Actually, several friends. For 26 years, Sue Ann and her quirky band of bohemian movie jocks ran what was undeniably KC’s most sophisticated video store. A movie collection rich in indie, classic, and foreign titles was served up by a staff that loved film and loved talking about it. And they wanted to get everyone in on the fun. There were movie poster giveaways, discounts for film personality birthdays, and one day a month was proclaimed Beer Night. As though it were not obvious, the monthly event calendar always sported the headline, “We Are Not Boring!”

I am as guilty as anyone for letting the new by-mail and online content delivery services change how I watch movies. And I suppose that could be why the e-mail announcing SRO’s demise came like a sucker punch; there was no way I (as a continuing fan but former patron) could deny I was partly responsible.

But guilt and the inevitable mourning aside, SRO, with its shiny Employee Picks stickers, trivia contests, and entire sections labeled “Woody” and “Hitch” remains a happy fixture of KC’s past. Naturally, I got to thinking about other local stores now gone but which were equally deserving of the ‘not boring’ moniker. I bet you can, too, but here are some to get you started:

Whistler’s Books – This Westport bookstore in a two-story loft space was a reader’s paradise (if you could find a free chair), and titles featured on the display tables were generally well-considered employee picks. Material in the kids’ section was notably depressing or rife with political correctness.

Fine Arts Theatre – It was once famous for having run The Gods Must Be Crazy for something like a year.

Javagaia – Open for just a couple of years, this was the archetypal coffee house on Southwest Boulevard; it had everything – great coffee, live music, a head shop in the loft, a goldfish pond with waterfall, and lots of dirty hippies. It never reopened after the building flooded in 1993.

Pyramids Café – While I have not experienced much variation in fare and quality among Mediterranean restos in KC, at least this place just south of 34th on Broadway really dressed the part with bright white walls, lots of gold trim, and loud blue carpet.

The Hurricane (a.k.a. The Whore-a-cane) – Now operating under a different name, this small venue known best for promoting the local rock scene still accommodated just about every musical trend of the ’90s, including the brief swing revival.

Finnegan’s Irish Pub – What is now the Record Bar with its tasteful wood interior (thanks to the remodel by their predecessor, Molloy Bros.) used to have carpet and tacky leprechaun-green walls. For a while there was a free hot dog bar that encouraged prolonged drinking but which they must have removed because the local bums caught on to it.

Lucille’s/Otto’s – The kitchen in the original Lucille’s building had a nasty habit of catching fire, which was too bad for this open-late ’50s retro diner that drew its staff from the local supply pool of punk kids. The more modestly-sized Otto’s malt shop a few blocks away continued the tradition for another few years before the owners left KC ostensibly for good and reopened in Las Vegas, NV. A recent revival inside the Czar Bar didn’t seem to pan out.

Middle Class Values – In 1991 KXTR produced an ad in which Patrick Neas and another DJ faked Sveeedish accents and talked about all the cool stuff at Middle Class Values they could buy as Christmas presents for little Fannie and Alexander. At their mere mention of Twin Peaks paraphernalia, I made an immediate pilgrimage and discovered a store that was something like Spencer Gifts sans the shit-joke greeting cards and offensive light switch plates. I was sad to hear of the owner’s passing within the last year or so.

Bruce Smith Drugs on the Plaza – More has been written about the ‘chainafication’ of the Plaza than I care to rehash, but for me this store’s disappearance marked the point at which the shopping district ceased to have a local personality.

Emile’s – The space now occupied by the Plaza Starbucks once housed one of KC’s best (and few) German restaurants. There was nothing like a simple plate of schnitzel, spätzle, and sauerkraut with a glass of Warsteiner on Emile’s corner patio.

Classical Westport – In the same vein as SRO, here was a store that specialized in selling albums in a specific genre and where the staff could give intelligent buying advice. Occasional events centered around a particular composer also helped retain their solid following.

The Souper – Definitely part of Westport’s long-gone bohemian days, this eatery was known for its bread and lunchtime fare (including some great quiche, if memory serves). The hifi was loud and the crowd was high.

CommentaryWTEIKC | 26 Sep 2010 09:17 pm

and I avoided giving it to my own cat for as long as possible – four years, I think. Compared to the dry stuff, wet cat food is essentially feline crack. Seriously, they cannot get enough of it, as opposed to the dry stuff you never have to worry about them overeating. To make matters worse, it looks like shit and doesn’t smell much better – even the expensive stuff. Worst of all, three months into the purgatory of feeding my cat this foetid sludge,

its nutritional superiority over dry kibble is finally obvious. His coat has become noticeably softer and almost has a shine to it, and he has put on some weight (a good thing, as he’s been a little too lean the last couple of years).

I wish you could buy a month’s supply in a large cylinder with a plunger at one end, like a caulking gun. Then you’d never have to get anywhere near the business end, and could just dispense a day’s ration at a safe distance: *ppthhhhhhhhhhh-plop*

CommentaryWTEIKC | 12 Apr 2010 05:51 pm

“Hey, honey – let’s jump in the Subaru and head over to Eden Alley for some tomato bisque and a salad.”
“Mmmm! Be right there – just putting on my Plaza Body Armor.”

CommentaryWTEIKC | 24 Feb 2010 07:31 pm

Doesn’t he have to commit seppuku or something?

CommentaryWTEIKC | 02 Aug 2009 04:36 pm

Seriously… There are two things about Gates Barbeque that have always baffled me: 1) The greeting, “Hi, may I help you?” yelled in an ear-splitting, almost accusatory voice as soon as you enter the building (are you really supposed to know what you want that soon?), and 2) the lack of any apparent organization behind the counter, resulting in long waits in a crowded space next to the register. I love KC BBQ, but when deciding among the many great places to get it, Gates usually gets written off first when I remember these two irritations. It doesn’t seem like enjoying a good meal should require getting yelled at and then being asked to repeat your order several times.

Gates should take a hard look at, say, Oklahoma Joe’s, another busy BBQ joint, but where the line keeps moving because there is a smooth, well-conceived workflow behind the counter. Okie Joe’s is a much smaller operation, yet it has received national recognition, including the infamous eat-here-before-you-die endorsement from superstar chef Anthony Bourdain. Gates may have more commercial savvy and presence in supermarkets, but can’t really boast the same in terms of prestige. Hm, wonder why?

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