Johnson County Family opens shop in the West Bottoms
It’s 8:00am on a First Friday Weekend in the West Bottoms and a crowd gathers in front of a hundred year old building. What are they doing here? Why get up early on a Friday morning to drive down to this area of the city? They are committed to be the first people through three floors of vintage, antique and handmade furniture and home decor curated by over 75 different vendors at Bella Patina. The vendors have spent the entire month picking through barns, collecting the best finds at estate sales, and building or refinishing pieces specifically for this three day event. This is Vintage Revival.
The West Bottoms is home to over 20 shops that feature vintage & repurposed shopping and Bella Patina, the fourth store to open, was one of the forerunners of this incredible revitalization of this historic area. Yet the story of Bella Patina is more than just one of incredible growth and success, it’s the story of a family pursuing a dream. Bella Patina is owned by six members of one family, the Allen family. Megan Allen retells what it was like to decide to embark on this journey. “We knew that we loved styling our own homes with vintage decor, and we had fallen in love with the ambiance of this historic area. But our family roots were from suburban Johnson County and there was always the question of whether people would get over the stigma that this area carried. We decided that it was worth the risk to work and invest in an area that we could help to have a rebirth.”
When the Allen family gathered to open Bella Patina it was started on a shoestring budget and the hopes of seeing a vision become a reality. The Allens took a vacant old 5,000 square foot space and did some quick renovations and then put out ads on craigslist looking for vendors. When Bella Patina opened in April of 2011 they only had 8 vendors and a whole lot of hope. That hope wasn’t just wishful thinking, over the course of the next three years they would add 20,000 square feet across three floors grow to over 75 vendors and would begin seeing an average of 15,000 people venturing across the city and region to shop. This came with a constant commitment to focusing on the experience that Bella Patina would offer.
Since Bella Patina is family owned there was always a vision to create a place that would be something that could be enjoyed by multiple generations of a family. “The best thing for us is when we see three generations shopping together and finding something that fits each of their styles.” says Nick Allen.
Whether you find your tastes leaning toward the shabby chic looks made popular by Joanna Gaines, or if you find yourself more drawn to mid century modern or industrial, you can find something to fit any style. This once-a-month show allows for the vendors to replenish their spaces so you can expect to find unique pieces every single month. Vendors focus on offering unique items at fair prices, which is why the motto of the West Bottoms is “Buy it when you see it, because it won’t be there when you come back”. But this shop isn’t just home to vintage & antique finds, the Allens have been passionate to find people who make their own products. Jacob Allen says “As a family that owned a small business that has had so much exposure, we wanted to give an opportunity to other small family owned businesses to share in what we’ve experienced.” Which is why their third floor General Store was born, to feature local makers & artisans.
Ryan and Jess Mead, owners of Tyler Kingston Wood + Supply Co, started their business out of their garage selling their home decor online until they could both quit their jobs to focus on their business. The Meads joined the General Store so customers can shop a selection of their goods all while they continue to expand their brand to new people. “We love that we can provide a platform for people to show off what they love doing. For some it’s just a hobby and for others it’s how they make a living.They get to be seen by a large audience and we get to have cool products exclusive to our store. It’s a win-win.” says Nick.
The Allens wanted to give people an experience that was more than shopping, but a whole day outing for the family. “As the neighborhood grew and so did our store, we saw a need to help our customers not feel rushed away when they got hungry. That’s when we knew we needed to add a restaurant into our store.” Amy Allen said that during the growth of the neighborhood there was a drawing of food trucks to provide meals to hungry shoppers, but there wasn’t anywhere to sit down away from the elements and have something good to eat. Chad and Kira Montouri of Painted Rooster reached out to the Allens looking for a place to serve food and the timing was perfect. Serving breakfast staples like biscuits and gravy and breakfast burritos and lunch favorites pulled pork tacos and cuban sandwiches and baked goods all made fresh in house. “It’s the perfect fit, we are impressed by the food they serve and we love that they are also a family business.” said James Allen.
The Allens continue to add new experiences with bar service provided by Embrace The Grape, a beverage catering company, serving beer and wine and for the creative people the Allens have partnered with The Makery KC, hosting a series of DIY workshops inside the store. “We want our customers to have fun, that’s why we are always looking for new ways to make Bella Patina different.” said Tim Allen.
For Megan, with a background in bridal, she created Bella Sposa, a vintage-inspired bridal show inside Bella Patina. “I wanted to have a show that wasn’t like the bridal shows you typically see.” said Megan. Bella Sposa features wedding professionals that specialize in unique approaches to wedding services that pair with their vintage-inspired theme. There’s also a runway fashion show highlighting designers from bridal shops like The Gown Gallery to inspire brides on current vintage-inspired fashion bridal trends. And of course, brides have exclusive access to shop all of Bella Patina outside of the First Friday Weekend crowds.
“Think about how decor serves as the backdrop to the story of your life. That dresser you had in your room when you were growing up, the table you had family meals around, the chair you rocked your baby in, this is what we hope the purchases become for our customers. There’s something beautiful about adding your own story to the history of a piece.” Nick Allen said.
As the sun sets on Friday evening in the West Bottoms the lights glow around the door of Bella Patina and the after-work crowd is makes their way into the warehouse to find something special. Meanwhile, in the back of the shop vendors are carrying in new merchandise to prepare for the influx of crowds to arrive on Saturday and Sunday.
Have your own Vintage Revival experience. Get more information about Bella Patina on Instagram @bellapatinakc and on Facebook. Bella Patina is located at 1320 W. 12th St. KC, MO 64101