He didn't, of course. After a couple of years as a research-and-development chef for a local culinary company, Bowers decided to buy his own place. But his choice of a venue was — it seemed to me, anyway — an odd one. Bowers, now 32, and his business partner, Phil Harbor, bought the venerable — but dated — Pumpernick's Restaurant and Deli at 3820 West 95th Street in Leawood.
I hadn't set foot in that misbegotten joint since 2002, when I wrote a column about Pumpernick's third set of owners, including chef Peggy Petersen, who ran the place for five years. I'm sure I endeared myself to peppy Peggy when I wrote that the food stunk. Not that it had ever been particularly good, despite having somehow lured loyal regulars who loved it enough to eat there every day.
Some of those regulars have been e-mailing me to rave over the changes that Bowers has made since he took over on May 23. The first thing he did was to resume the tradition of baking fresh pastries daily. Then he seriously tweaked the menu. He's already making his own corned beef, and he's bringing back the popular Pumpernick's Sampler (a trio of small deli sandwiches on fresh egg buns) and improving the recipe for the tuna and chicken salads. "The previous owner made it with celery and too much mayonnaise. I've added a few more ingredients and less mayo," Bowers says.
The place is still open from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., but Bowers hopes to offer dinner someday because his neighbors (O'Neill's Restaurant and the Salty Iguana) are doing bang-up night business. But right now, his focus is on deep-cleaning the once-dowdy place and continuing to improve the menu. "The regulars love what I'm doing," Bowers said. "Now I just need for new people to find us."
Fresh pastries? I'm there.