A look inside Lauren Merriman’s creative blueprint for women-focused city club The Nelle

Photography by Samantha Levi

Back in the early 1900s, Kansas City thrived off city clubs. Notable Kansas City elite like Tom Pendergast and presidents Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower were known members of the Kansas City Club, a gentlemen’s club that operated from 1882, allowed women in 1975 and ceased operations in 2015. The old-school River Club in Quality Hill still operates today.

Entrepreneur Lauren Merriman is building a women-focused city club concept called The Nelle, a club that offers various amenities and programs to its members. With help from local artists, creators and innovators, Merriman is transforming her Crossroads space into the perfect hangout, workout and vibe-out spot. Amenities include a cafe and bar, screening room, gym—which will be run by TUF Club and feature a standout boxing ring—and stylish co-working spaces. Learn more about the creative blueprint of The Nelle, and look out for their opening status on their Instagram (@_thenelle).

Where did the idea for The Nelle come from?

Before living in Chicago, I lived in London for a while, as well as Los Angeles and Las Vegas, so this is one of the smallest cities I’ve lived in. I had grown accustomed to city clubs in those bigger cities, and I’m a member of several. When I moved here, I kind of wanted to have the same setup. We were living in the bus loop in Chicago and had the East Bank Club down the street, where you could literally get your hair cut, get a car wash, get a smoothie, have a meeting, whatever you want—and it really helps a busy person’s life function in a more efficient way. I didn’t really find that here. This is a country club town, which comes with its own amenities. But for someone who wants to just watch a movie with girlfriends, city clubs are a better fit. I was excited to bring that experience to Kansas City. I really feel like there is so much value in having people in cities who want to believe in others, invest in others and bring great amenities to them, and that was really what I felt empowered to do.

Who inspires you?

Women like Nelle Peters, who was the architect of what was actually our original building and an inspiration to our name. Nelle built the building in a time when it was rare for a woman to get a college degree, let alone go into something like architecture—that was really impressive. She was quoted somewhere saying, “I really feel inspired to do something that makes a fundamental difference and makes me satisfied.” We want to do the same thing with The Nelle.

What is an interesting fact about The Nelle?

Twenty-five percent of the membership fees annually will go to artists. Showcasing other businesses in Kansas City within a unique model is really important to us. Plus, service workers, health care workers and nonprofit employees can reach out in regards to membership costs. We really want to be as inclusive as possible in that way.

GO: The Nelle, 1818 McGee St., KCMO. thenelle.com

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