Bakery regulars say farewell, consider future of building

Abby Hoover
Managing Editor

The end of an era, the neon “open” sign at Boulevard Bakery & Pastries flickered off for the last time on Saturday. After nearly 30 years, the owners hung up their aprons in anticipation of a well-deserved retirement.

On Thursday, Aug. 12, the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce hosted a “ribbon tying” event at Boulevard Bakery to honor their business. Regulars turned out to thank the bakery for years of sweet treats, reminiscing on early morning donut runs and special occasions as they stood in line hoping their favorites weren’t already gone.

Living right down the street, regular customer Michael Dicus estimates he’s been to Boulevard Bakery “a bazillion” times. His favorite was the orange tea cakes.

When he and Kent Dicus travel, they would keep an eye out for cookie jars and teapots that were bakery themed to give to their neighborhood bakery.

“They used to have a whole collection of them, so I guess that tradition’s over,” Dicus said. “They’ve always been around. We’ve used them for special orders. We’d stop in once a week maybe – at least – so we got to know everybody, they’re friends, too. Sometimes we’d stop in even if we weren’t going to buy anything. We’re sad to see them go.”

John Tusa has been going to Boulevard Bakery since he was seven years old, and he gravitated toward the eclairs. Living in the Northeast all his life, he knows the quality is what’s kept them in business so long.

David Remley agrees, adding that he’s never had a bad cookie. He appreciated the consistency when it came to cakes and other special orders.

“People just found out how reliable and how good they are,” Remley said. “And they’re friendly, they remember your name. It’s like a small town bakery, and I think they had the small town values to go with it, and that’s what made it a success.”

Dicus said there’s been a lot of turnover in businesses, and since it’s expensive to rent a storefront on the boulevard, many businesses can’t hold on for long. He hopes the neighborhoods consistently support whatever takes their place, and would like to see a restaurant or any independently owned store fill the soon-to-be vacant storefronts.

“We were pining for a coffee shop and now we’ve got three,” Dicus said. “I’d love to have a nice restaurant, a breakfast, lunch, or even dinner place. A destination – we have friends, we know people from Leawood who come to this bakery – it doesn’t have to be a fancy restaurant, but good food, nice restaurant, people would come here.”

Remley, who visited the bakery at least once a week, would like a bakery and a cleaner to continue the legacy of Boulevard Bakery and Mayfair Cleaners in the strip.

“It’s going to take a lot of updating,” Remley said. “I think just replace them with what was here because they were both successful.”

Sam Crowley, who doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, is a strong supporter of businesses on Independence Avenue. He’s been considering what he’d like to see fill the space, but hopes it won’t sit empty for years, like the former pawn shop kitty-corner.

Independence Plaza Neighborhood Council President Cynthia Herrington purchased a home two doors down from the bakery that when they started had no kitchen, no plumbing and no heat.

“Having Boulevard Bakery as our neighbor was an absolute godsend, and being able to get us through that first six months, a year, and I can’t mention the number of times they’ve seen me at 5 o’clock in the morning in my pajamas,” Herrington said. “We cannot say enough about what good neighbors they’ve been and we’re really sad to see them go.”
Now, she just wants to see the storefront filled.

“We have so many vacant buildings, we have so many opportunities for new business,” Herrington said. “I know the building was purchased by a new investor and they’re looking for tenants for the entire thing, and they’ve also talked about being willing to open the entire thing up.”
Her neighbor Ryan Maybee, co-owner of J. Rieger Distillery, agrees.

“There’s definitely a giant, gaping hole when it comes to your general bars and restaurants along this corridor,” Maybee said. “There’s a handful of really exceptional Mexican restaurants and other really cool options like that, but even just a regular neighborhood bar, we’re just lacking that. That would be really cool, in my opinion.”

He was disappointed to hear the bakery was retiring because it’s been a destination for a long time and they’re always busy.

“I’m excited to see what unfolds,” Herrington said. “Stuff moves really fast here. We’re sad to see them go, but I’d love to have some new food, or booze, or stuff, or anything would be fantastic.”

Everyone has a favorite, that’s what’s so special about them – for her an apple fritter, for husband Johnny a cinnamon sugar donut – they had a little bit of everything.

The Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce hosted a community conversation in October 2020 to get a feel for what residents and other stakeholders feel is missing from the business community.

Boardmember Gary Goebel would like to see these conversations continue as residents ponder the fate of yet another empty space. Knowing how many people are working to improve their nearby homes, he’d like to see a home improvement or other household amenities.

A proclamation from State Rep. Ingrid Burnett (D-23), read by Northeast Kansas City Historical Society President Kent Dicus, recognized the business’s owners Mary Clark and Loretta Peeler and employees Roni Scott and Brian Szafranski for their contributions to the neighborhood.

“Thank you so much for supporting us through the years,” Szafranski said. “It wouldn’t be there without you guys, it’s really been a great ride, and thank you all so much.”

A cornerstone of the Independence Boulevard corridor for more than 30 years, the bakery will be missed by regulars and newcomers alike.

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