When I used to leave Independence for a night out many, many years ago, heading to downtown Lee’s Summit became a regular destination.
And we had one particular place in mind to hit — Strother’s.
Long before craft beers took over our downtown, Strother’s was boasting more taps than anyone else and offering up food options and atmosphere that got us out of our town just north of Lee’s Summit and into downtown for a few hours on a weekend.
At that time, entertainment options were limited — Jerry’s Bait Shop, Beauchamp’s, Third St. Pub, Do Drop Inn and a few others were the extent of our drink, music and dining opportunities.
But much like the business district as a whole, our restaurant and bar scene has undergone colossal changes in the last decade. Each block of our downtown is now filled with a wide array of dining options, craft cocktails, small-batch beers, trivia nights and bands that range from intimate settings at Libations & Company to all out jam and dancing sessions on the patio at Llywelyn’s Pub.
Where there used to be less than 10 spots to do all of the above, downtown Lee’s Summit — site of the original 11 blocks platted as the Town of Strother in 1865 (three years before Lee’s Summit took on its current name in 1868) now boasts 24 restaurants, bars, lounges and eateries that have come together to marketed as The Strother District.
With the massive firepower this collective group has, it’s no wonder they joined forces to share resources, help one another promote events and encourage the future of what dining, drink and entertainment may look like in downtown Lee’s Summit.
“The business owners in downtown Lee’s Summit have always worked well together so it seemed like a natural next step,” Konrad’s Kitchen and Tap House owner Julie Kemna said. “Our goal is not to rename downtown Lee’s Summit. It is to bring unity to the entertainment district that has already been growing and thriving.”
Shane Veritasi, owner of the W and the soon-to-be-open 25th venue in The Strother District — Hand in Glove — said the project has been three years in the making.
“We felt like an organization focused solely on the needs of the food, drink and entertainment needs of the district was a priority,” he said, calling The Strother District a union of businesses that have parallel goals, including communication, traffic and customer service.
“This is a neighborhood brand that is 100 percent vendor funded and managed so the businesses don’t ever have to come out of pocket unless they want to,” Veritasi said, adding that aligned bars, restaurants and entertainment businesses will also have access to a range of advertising options, business consultants and purchasing power.
Stuey McBrew’s owner Justin Bliefnick said the formation of The Strother District brand will help those entertainment businesses in downtown pool resources to create opportunities for marketing campaigns and significant advertising impacts in the region. Another aspect, Bliefnick said, was in communicating day-to-day specials, happy hours, music lineups and parking tips through a master calendar.
All while not taking away from the tremendous work that’s been done by many downtown staff members, volunteers and stakeholders over many decades to make our downtown Lee’s Summit the envy of many in the Midwest.
“The reason we opted for ‘The Strother District’ is because a neutral brand had to be created to represent all of us,” Bliefnik said. “We also wanted a name that was very different than DTLS or DTLSMS so there wouldn’t be any confusion as to who was creating what content. By no means is this an attempt to rename ‘Downtown Lee’s Summit.’
“Think of The Strother District as a group of businesses and a web site more than a geographical address/location. We all love being part of downtown Lee’s Summit and with the way everyone is thriving, it looks like it’s going to stay that way for a long time.”
In a geographically small footprint, we have a pretty diverse group of businesses, business owners, ideas and dreams for our downtown.
The alliance of these particular business owners is not only a nod to the more entertainment-centric aspects of our downtown, but also shows a tremendous amount of cooperation and acknowledgment that when we put our collective heads together, everyone in the district — retail, service, restaurant/bar and entertainment — will ultimately be the benefactors.
Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.