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Inside CartWheel, the patchwork covers on the few remaining bus seats complement the free-spirited mood set by her eclectic mix of merchandise. (She made the covers from her grandmother's quilts.) Rogers' items — glitzy cow-tooth-pendant necklaces, reupholstered chairs — sit alongside clothing and ceramics from friends and acquaintances. Prices start at a couple of dollars. Tags higher than $50 are rare.
"All along, I've wanted CartWheel to be a way to connect local artists and then connect their handmade stuff to people who aren't already familiar with them," Rogers says. "You can build community everywhere the bus goes."
Rogers and the Genessee Royale teamed up with Garnet Griebel of Scarlett Garnet Jewelry to kick off the Royale market. Griebel's studio sits across the street from the restaurant lot, inside the Livestock Exchange Building. Another of the restaurant's neighbors, Amigoni Urban Winery, also promotes the market. From this foundation, the market has grown through word of mouth. All are welcome, and the organizers haven't yet discussed the idea of charging vendors to sell. (Rogers does not collect payment from those who sell their items aboard her bus.)
Shops nationwide carry Scarlett Garnet, and Whatchamacallits also sells in River Market Antiques and 600 Central. Others, though, hope that the gypsy market can attract a steady enough customer base to make a single-site business work. Billy Emerson has sold his goods as a vendor inside West Bottoms shop One Man's Treasure and at events such as the Greaserama car show; he wants his truck-based Blue Collar to become his main location.
For some vendors, it's too soon to know how mobile they want to be. Rachel Rolon sells her beer bread and bagels under the name Black Dog Bakery, her black dog by her side. For now, she relies on a mix of shoppers seeking out this place as well as those stumbling upon it — people like Ashley Rippeto. On the first Saturday in September, Rippeto and two of her friends ate lunch at Genessee Royale and then couldn't resist browsing Rogers' bus. They left with a bag of finds.
"This is how the West Bottoms is," Rippeto says. "You never know what you're going to see. There's always something new and fun."
So here Rogers is, doing those three things she wanted to do back in art school: Make art, bring people together and teach. She can't yet live on CartWheel alone, but she's seeing a steady increase in profits and she has big ideas for the future. Some disused Kansas City building might yet house Recess, for instance — that old art-school idea. Such a place could anchor the warehouse art mecca she dreams of creating, a place for artist residency programs and mixed studio and living spaces, and maybe even live music.
For now, she's moving CartWheel forward, brainstorming with the skills-and-networking nonprofit Kansas City Freeskool to find ways to take her bus on the road as part of a grassroots educational effort. She's trying to form a mobile business association and find more pop-up-friendly spots, and she aims to grow the Gypsy Market Royale.
"My dream is to fill up that whole lot," she says with a wide, confident smile as she points toward the Genessee Royale's 50-space parking blacktop. "It's just a matter of hooking up all the right people."