McLain’s, a bakery and market fixture in Kansas City since 1945, is planning to open a new location in downtown Shawnee.
The Hirleman family, the owners of McLain’s Market, are in a contract to purchase the former site of OK Garage at 5833 Nieman Road and turn it into a bakery, coffee shop, restaurant and bar, with drive-thru service.
Mollie Lothman, one of the owners, said that while looking for a new location in the Kansas City area, she and her brother, Jeff Hirleman, came across OK Garage and thought it would be a good opportunity to rehabilitate an older building, especially in downtown Shawnee.
“My brother and myself, we fell in love with the building immediately,” Lothman said. “We just felt like it had so much potential and so much opportunity to just create a space to have people.
“And we love being part of the resurgence of old Shawnee. That was a big perk to us as well of being in an area of town that needs some things like this, and then also where we could just be in a community of people, in a neighborhood and small downtown where we could provide coffee, good food and a place for family and friends and people of all ages to hang out.”
The Hirlemans plan to invest at least $2.1 million to purchase and renovate the site. Lothman said they hope to keep as much of the original building as possible, such as the garage doors.
They are also in a contract to purchase Downtown Shawnee Car Wash located directly behind the garage at 11004 W. 59th St. The owners’ current plan is to demolish the car wash to make room for additional parking.
If all goes as planned, they hope to open by late spring or summer 2020.
The site of OK Garage includes another building next to it; at this point, the owners don’t have plans for that building but hope to keep and repurpose it. One main goal is to make sure the Shawnee location has a drive-thru as well.
Lothman said the city has been accommodating them as they make plans to build a location downtown.
OK Garage originally opened in 1919 and was one of the first businesses in the city.
The former automotive repair garage has been vacant for many years, and several developers have inquired about redeveloping it, according to a Shawnee city memo.
While the owners plan to bear the entire cost of purchasing the building and operating the business, they may require financial assistance from the city of Shawnee to cover the renovation and restoration costs.
The Shawnee city council on Monday will consider whether the city will enter into a development agreement with McLain’s Market. The agreement would allow financial assistance in the form of reimbursements for the project, totaling $325,000, from the city’s Economic Development Fund and on an as-needed basis.
City staff noted that economic development funds could only be used for the costs of renovation and restoration of the property. If McLain’s would request the public dollars, they must also provide documentation that the city funds are necessary for the project to move forward.
Having the brand recognition of McLain’s Market is also expected to have a significant, positive impact and serve as a catalyst to attract new businesses downtown, Shawnee city staff noted in a memo.
Ann Smith-Tate, president and chief executive officer of the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce, said the Shawnee Economic Development Council is “excited” to bring the proposed agreement for approval to the Shawnee city council.
“The energy that McLain’s will bring in redeveloping one of Shawnee’s iconic buildings, the OK Garage, will cause a significant positive economic impact to our city,” Smith-Tate said in a statement. “Developments like these provide great dining and experiential opportunities to our residents and can also act as a catalyst to kickstart similar projects.
“The City’s investment in the infrastructure and beatification improvements of Nieman Road are paying off in attracting these great new amenities.”
Funds in the Shawnee Economic Development Fund are allowed for projects that bring a beneficial economic impact, especially downtown and in areas of the city in need of redevelopment.
McLain’s first opened in 1945 in the Waldo neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri. The McLain family ran the bakery for three generations before turning ownership to another local family in 2001. The Hirlemans bought the business in 2014 and have opened other stores in the region, including one at Roe Avenue and West 107th Street in Overland Park.
The proposed development agreement would require that McLain’s complete the project within one year of July 22, 2019, the effective date of the agreement. If the project is not completed by that time, the company must repay Shawnee for any funds disbursed. The agreement also includes clawback provisions, which would go into effect if McLain’s stops doing business within the first three years after the effective date of the agreement.
The Shawnee Economic Development Council has established that attracting new businesses downtown and along the Nieman Road corridor is a major priority.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct an error. OK Garage first opened in 1919 and was one of the first businesses in the city.