The Crossroads Arts District reminds Raygun owner Mike Draper of Des Moines' burgeoning East Village, home to his original T-shirt and novelty shop. That familiar feeling has led Draper to open his first Raygun store outside Iowa at 1803 Baltimore, in the heart of the Crossroads.
"The Crossroads is kind of exactly what we were looking for," Draper says. The shop's soft opening is Friday, March 28; a First Friday grand opening follows a week later, on April 4.
Like the Iowa stores, Kansas City's Raygun will be stocked with shirts that make irreverent proclamations, such as "Don't meth with Kansas," "I am from Missouri, you have got to show me" and "Branson: God's waiting room's nightclub."
Draper opened his first Raygun store in Des Moines in 2005; a second arrived in Iowa City in 2010. In the beginning, Raygun was, according to Draper, "so hyper-local" that making a T-shirt about a place other than Des Moines seemed like a stretch. Now Draper's goal is to go regional.
"We want to be essentially a Midwestern brand," Draper says, "and we don't want to move out of the 12 states of the Midwest."
(Further reading: Raygun's book, The Midwest: God's Gift to the Planet Earth
.) He had been looking around awhile when the opportunity to expand finally presented itself in KC.
"Between Des Moines and Iowa City, we kind of maxed out what we can do in Iowa," he says. "So it's just been when we have money to open up another store and looking for the right city."
Draper's short list narrowed further as more and more friends recounted trips to Kansas City for concerts and Sporting matches. KC sounded increasingly attractive to Draper. "The hipness over the last few years has been a recalibration, and so that's what made us look in Kansas City first."
Former Method owner Shomari Benton also helped, giving Draper a tour of Kansas City's neighborhoods and introducing him to Crossroads business owners Butch Rigby and Shirley Helzberg.
Draper knew that he wasn't looking for a retail-heavy climate such as the Plaza or Westport. He wanted to be somewhere Raygun would, he says, "add something to the neighborhood." The proliferation of small buildings and small-business owners in the Crossroads sold him.
"In a well-established neighborhood, there's not the sense of urgency or the teamwork to really grow it," Draper says. "Whereas even from someone like Shirley Helzberg, who I would view as really a well-established lady, she even wanted to talk with us about what we thought of the neighborhood, and what we thought would do well in her buildings. And so just the concern of everyone we talked to about how to grow the neighborhood was a good sign from us that people are interested in seeing it grow. Everything moves at our speed there, too."
Raygun is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.