It’s no secret that Troost has long been a dividing line in Kansas City, with racial covenants and banking practices prohibiting Black citizens from owning property to the avenue’s west. On the street itself, there’s a tight-knit community. Armando Vasquez and Michael Hastings wanted to be part of it by opening Anchor Island Coffee at 41st and Troost last March—just days before the pandemic hit.
“The first year of business is always interesting,” Hastings says. “You either survive or you don’t, and we have Covid to deal with, too.”
Unforeseen by Hastings and Vasquez was a new neighbor: Oddly Correct, a high-profile coffee shop and roaster that plans to move a block away early this summer.
Oddly Correct is known for its strong showing in national barista competitions and for its outspoken, left-leaning social media presence. A post regarding the results of the November election, for example, was removed amid a “stick to coffee” backlash. “If we’re JUST a coffee company here to create something for you to consume, you clearly haven’t been paying attention to us,” read a follow-up statement.
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An Instagram post announcing the move to Troost drew more than three hundred comments, some extremely critical.
In an email to Kansas City, Oddly Correct’s co-owner Michael Schroeder says the move to Troost is an effort to get its roasting operation under the same roof as its cafe instead of being three doors away. “We’ve been wanting to bring them together for a long time but couldn’t find a way to do it,” he wrote. “So we’ve had our eyes out for quite a while for something that could work well and bring our whole crew under one roof.”
Schroeder says his shop isn’t competing with neighborhood spots. Three-quarters of Oddly’s customers only visit once a month, at most, and just three percent visit at least once a week, he says. And two-thirds of his total business is roasting coffee.
“We all had underlying concerns about how to make adding another food/drink business on Troost some-thing that creates more value for every-one there,” he says. “We want to center ourselves as funneling as many of our customers to the unique things these two businesses—Anchor Island and Equal Minded—have to offer.”
Schroeder admits he made a mistake by announcing the opening on Insta-gram before reaching out to business and community leaders on Troost—a “short-sighted and presumptuous mistake” that was a valuable reminder “that intention does not equal impact.”
Anchor Island co-owner Hastings says he thinks Oddly will bring more people to Troost—but he’s not sure that his own shop will survive with another opening so near.
“There’s still a lot of fear and negativity surrounding the area,” Hastings says. “People don’t want to come here. Oddly Correct will bring them. Oddly doesn’t spend their time or money in this community, so they don’t know what they’re getting themselves into.”
One block south of the planned Oddly Correct space is Equal Minded Cafe, owned by Dontavious Young and his family. The three-year-old shop has blossomed into a community meeting place. They host Sunday poker nights and Tuesday open mics.
“Having a place where people can get food and drinks along with having a meeting place is what we needed in the community,” Young says. “It wouldn’t have been there otherwise. When Covid hit, we thought our business wouldn’t grow anymore, but it still grew because of the tremendous support the community has for Black-owned businesses.”
“Do I need to do something bigger and better so I could compete?” Young says. “[Oddly Correct] asked me how they could make themselves more adaptable to the community, and I said include minorities in everything that you do.”