Utilitarian Workshop: makers, builders, believers. 

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Over the past year, the couple has adopted a new puppy, purchased a fixer-upper in Fairway, and signed a lease on Utilitarian Workshop's brick-and-mortar location.

"There are so many people who are like, 'How are you guys still able to function and not rip each other's heads off?' " Williams says. "Even my mom is like, 'I'm just amazed that you guys don't argue.' And we don't."

The two-for-the-road spirit of their relationship informs their approach to customers as well.

"Our design process is very much like get to know our client, spending time with our client," Williams says. "When John was doing Port Fonda, he was having beers weekly with Patrick [Ryan, the restaurant's chef and owner] and getting to know his personality and his energy."

Anderson echoes: "It's important for us to really love our client. And we want our client to love us. When you are talking about a full identity and branding a build-out from A to Z, that person has to trust us with their life because we are helping them realize their dream."

"I wanted a much more urban and hip feel to go with the pace and energy of the restaurant," Ryan says of his decision to hire Utilitarian Workshop. "We've gotten a healthy amount of press and publicity, both locally and nationally. I'd like to think that part of the accolades are from what our place looks like."

What Port Fonda looks like reflects what Anderson calls the "modern industrial" aesthetic of Utilitarian Workshop: clean and sleek lines, heavily textured rustic elements, reclaimed materials from local sources. For Ryan, that translated to reclaimed barn wood for the restaurant's wall paneling; fabricating the bar, tabletops and shelves; sourcing chairs and stools; and designing the Port Fonda logo, sign, website and promotional materials.

"It's not like we reinvented the wheel," Anderson says of what amounted to a global design for Ryan's place. "This is just an old-school approach to business."


When Anderson and Williams signed the Summit lease, in August 2012, the building, which had most recently served as a storage unit, required a new façade, roof and interior walls. They also needed to update the plumbing and electrical wiring.

To get these things done, they used their own money and their own constant labor. And they turned to their friends.

Some volunteered their time; 119 backers also pledged $15,533 to a Utilitarian Workshop Kickstarter fund, launched last November.

Nick Ward-Bopp, a fellow craftsperson and a driving force behind the Jarboe Initiative and KC Maker Village, met Anderson in 2011. They got to know each other during long talks over beers discussing their business plans and goals. He describes Williams and Anderson as "aesthetic geniuses."

"Right away, when I saw their work, I wanted to help out and collaborate," Ward-Bopp says. So he helped them with the build-out in March, when local woodworkers and craftspeople gathered to raise Utilitarian Workshop's indoor walls.

The next month, West Side neighborhood residents Destiny Shelton and Angiela Meyer signed on to manage the retail end of the business, handling day-to-day operations and selecting merchandise. Like Ward-Bopp, Meyer was part of Anderson and Williams' social circle before there was a business ready for collaborators.

Another longtime friend, Kylie Grater —who moved to Oregon from Lawrence in 2011 — sells items from her Early Jewelry line and helps with visual merchandising.

Anderson found other Utilitarian Workshop vendors online. On Instagram, he spotted the handmade leather goods turned out by Dominic Scalise and Austin Lyon's KC CO., as well as landscape drawings by printmaker Kelly Clark. Bo Nelson and Bill Holzhueter, of Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters, met Anderson through Nathan Eaton of Bureau Visual. Eaton has put together videos for Thou Mayest, KC CO. and Utilitarian Workshop's Web presences.

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