Here's the latest in Kansas City's cycle of restaurant openings and nonopenings.

Round Robin 

Here's the latest in Kansas City's cycle of restaurant openings and nonopenings.

ant to open a restaurant? Attorney and landlord Chip Schmelzer is looking for you! Two months ago, Schmelzer's building at the northwest corner of Westport Road and Southwest Trafficway boasted "Coming Soon" signs on two different storefronts. The former Stolen Grill location had been leased by Paul Boesche and Jim Crandall for a bistro they planned to call Collage ("Art Project," November 28, 2002); the other site was a long-stalled Mexican restaurant to be called Excaret.

But as of February 1, Schmelzer had freed Boesche and Crandall from their Collage lease on 904 Westport Road. "I don't think they got their financing," Schmelzer says.

"My partners, Jim and Kathleen Crandall, just had a new baby girl, and the responsibility and expense of opening the restaurant just was too much," Boesche says. "So we told Chip we'd give up the space for right now.

"The space was really too small, and the economy isn't very strong," Boesche adds. "Jim and Kathleen moved back to St. Louis. I'm still here in Kansas City and waiting to see what happens with downtown. Frankly, that's where I'd like to put a restaurant. Not Westport."

As for the never-opened Excaret, Schmelzer says that despite the "Coming Soon" banner that hung over the former New World Bistro space at 900 Westport Road for well over a year, the restaurant won't be coming there -- now or ever. "The lease reverted to the original tenants, the in-laws of Joseph Fisher [the restaurateur who operated the New World Bistro], and they have a little 'For Lease' sign in the window. So I guess we're starting all over again."

Schmelzer says several restaurateurs have looked at the 904 space in the last two weeks. "I've had a couple of interesting proposals," he says.

But is now a good time to open a new restaurant? Yes, according to Bill Crooks, cofounder of the PB&J restaurant empire (YiaYia's, Grand Street Café, Yahooz). "We opened our first restaurant in November of 1987, right after the stock market tanked. And we did fine. It all depends on your expectations and your rationale for opening a place."

True to his word, Crooks and his PB&J partner Paul Khoury will open an Independence franchise of the Colorado-based Red Robin sit-down gourmet hamburger chain in April.

"I mean, there's never a good time to open a restaurant," Crooks says, "if you don't know what you're doing."

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