It’s a wrap! 2023 is in the bag!

That’s a  fitting headline for closing out 2023 and our colorful new map poster in our December 20th edition, spotlighting all of the neighborhoods in Historic Northeast Kansas City as well as some of the landmarks in their respective neighborhoods.

It’s been an eventful year here at the Little Shop of News, complete with some key staff changes and our biggest and best Back to School edition ever that came out in August. As part of our coverage of 2023, here’s a list of a dozen of our top news stories of the year, based on the number of visits those stories received on our web page.

1) Our top story in January ran in our January 4th edition entitled, “Popular North Kansas City BBQ joint lands in North End,” telling the story of Wolfepack BBQ signing a lease to move into the old North End Restaurant space in the Columbus Park neighborhood.

Jared Wolfe, co-owner of Wolfepack, set up shop with his fully functional trailer in the parking lot of the new space until the interior was ready for customers. After a soft opening in August, Wolfepack BBQ continues to expand their offerings of not only BBQ but craft cocktails and game day fare.

2) In February, Kansas City’s Preppie population got fully represented by our Remember This contributor Dorri Partain in our February 8th edition with a profile of the preppiest of clothing items, the Izod Lacoste Polo shirt. Like, totally dude, make sure those pleats are ironed and your tortoise shell glasses are positioned oh so perfectly on top of your head, mmkay?

Partain offered an expert look back to the height of the “preppie” fashion style during the early 1980’s, noting that the Izod Lacoste polo was usually worn unbuttoned with the collar flipped up. Madras plaid shorts, trousers or skirts completed the look, along with a cotton sweater draped and tied around the neck. To add to the look, Lacoste began offering leather goods: belts, luggage and sports bags, all with the popular crocodile emblem in 1981.

3) In March, sadly, our top news story ran in our March 17th edition entitled, “Family mourns homicide victim, plans vigil,” covering the aftermath of the killing of Elizabeth Stivers who was found in her yard near 7th and Myrtle on March 14th. Stivers was a well-known animal rights activist and often took strays home from the animal shelter to help nurse them back to health.

The Stivers family has an almost 100-year history living in the Northeast and a number of Elizabeth’s relatives, including two uncles, still live in the area. The family held a vigil in the front yard of the home and shared stories of Elizabeth and her caring nature.

A suspect remains in custody and as of this week, is expected to go to trial on January 24th, 2024.

4) In April, our top news story, “Loose dogs attack three on Sunday sending one to the hospital,” ran in our April 25th edition, telling the harrowing story of a Parks Department worker who was heading up a Sunday afternoon clean up along Gladstone Boulevard when she was attacked by three vicious dogs that knocked her off her feet and began to take chunks of meat out of her legs.

Indian Mound resident Christopher Lowrance, who leads weekly clean ups around the Indian Mound Park area, was nearby and was able to fend the dogs off long enough for the Parks employee to be moved quickly to a safe location prior to the arrival of an ambulance that transported her to a local hospital for treatment.

The owner of the dogs was located and all of the dogs were secured by KC Pet Project for observation. Ultimately, two of the animals were euthanized and the dog’s owner faced multiple charges for the incident including two counts of allowing a dog to run “at large,” two counts of public nuisance and one count of failing to spay a pit-bull.

“This has been an extremely traumatic ordeal,” the Parks department employee said. “My heart goes out to those dogs, that’s the most unfortunate part. The owners however, need to be held accountable.” 

5) Our top news story in May ran in our May 16th edition and was entitled, “Mulch fire has crews working around the clock.”

A large pile of mulch at the city’s leaf and brush recycling center at Chouteau Trafficway and Riverfront Road somehow caught fire, sending a column of smoke skyward that was visible for miles. Mulch fires, according to the Fire Department Public Information Officer, are especially problematic, with fire often burning wood chips that are deep under the surface of the pile.

Air samples were continually taken and no toxic fumes were noted, just a lot of smoke clouding the otherwise cloudless May sky for a week or so.

6) In June, our top story, “High Property tax assessments have Jackson County residents seeking help,” ran in our June 21st edition, just as property tax assessments began to arrive in mailboxes throughout Jackson County. To steal a line from baseball great Yogi Berra, it was déjà vu all over again, an almost exact repeat of the 2021 property tax assessment fiasco that saw some property tax increases of 1200% on vacant unimproved lots.

County Director of Assessment Gail McCann-Beatty stood by her numbers, which incensed thousands of urban core residents who got socked with tax bills that were often four or five times over last year’s bill with no justification for the increase.

That story continues to be relevant in December with the findings of Missouri State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick, who found that the County “broke the law by improperly raising home valuations.” The story continues to develop as the due date for payment of property taxes looms.

7) In July, our top news story was our weekly Historic Postcard column that ran in our July 19th edition, entitled, “The flood to end all floods,” a photo-essay on the 1951 Missouri River flood. Pictures taken from booklets published by private companies spotlighted the devastation of the ‘51 flood in the city’s West Bottoms, Argentine and Armourdale areas.

One of those companies, Columbian Steel Tank Company, located at 1401-1701 E. 12th St., published a booklet that covered how their business and employees fared during the flood.  Company President Joseph M. Kramer penned a moving forward to the 16-page photo booklet that offers an extensive view of the flood both outside and inside of their manufacturing facility at the foot of the 12th Street Viaduct.

The piece was a companion to the Kansas City Museum’s new exhibit on Missouri’s 1993 flood and the photographs taken by local Outdoor Writer Ken Kieser as he documented the flood for the Missouri Department of Transportation and the US Geological Survey.  Missouri’s Great Flood of 1993: re-visiting an epic natural disaster, a book written by Kieser and published by The Northeast News, was the foundation for the museum’s exhibit.

8) In August, our top news story featured something as simple as a kid’s lunch. As part of our annual Back to School edition that broke on August 2nd, UMKC Editorial Assistant Grace Kertz offered up a sack-lunch alternative to the classic PB&J entitled “For kids, make a lunch that tastes good.”  

Kertz penned an expert piece on the simplicity of wraps, salads and gussied-up sandwiches that can be a healthy replacement for the old peanut butter and jelly on white bread.  Kertz started by laying down a spinach tortilla, then stirred a salad mix with Hawaiian dressing, adding hummus and pre-cooked rotisserie chicken for protein. So simple, even a caveman can do it!

9) In September, our top news piece wasn’t a traditional news story but an editorial installment from the famous News Dog, Bunny the Newshound. This time, in a piece appropriately entitled “We’re here from the government and we’re here to help,” ran in our September 15th edition, spotlighting the city’s tearing up brand new pavement in order to install new fire hydrant water lines along Belmont Boulevard between Wilson Road and St. John Avenue, tearing up pavement so new, the glue on the new lane-striping wasn’t even dry yet.

The expertly researched editorial noted prominently a press release on the City’s web site dated August 19, 2021, in which Mayor Quinton Lucas states: “Too often, the City spends time, resources, and manpower on resurfacing a street in our city, only to have that same street torn up days later for pre-scheduled utility work. It’s frustrating. It’s wasteful. It’s expensive.”

For the record, Belmont Boulevard remained torn up until roughly Thanksgiving because of this project and contractors didn’t even replace the asphalt they tore up with new asphalt. To this day, there’s a strip of concrete, allegedly temporary, down the middle of the southbound lanes. So much for the city following its own ordinances, huh!

10) October’s top story, “Botched Robbery leads to fatal shooting on the Avenue,” ran in our October 7th edition and told of a botched robbery of the Cricket store at Independence and Chestnut that left one suspect shot dead inside the business.

Court records indicated that the suspect, Roderick A. Brown, entered the business and according to store managers, started acting “funny.” A clerk inside the Cricket Wireless store sent a text message to a male friend, asking for assistance. By the time that friend came into the Cricket store, Brown was allegedly holding the clerk in the back room at gunpoint, attempting to rob the store. An altercation led to one or more shots being fired and Brown being struck. He was declared deceased and to date, no charges in the case have been filed in the case.

11) In November, the city of Kansas City once again gets the top news spot in our November 22nd edition with “City debuts low bridge warning curtain system,” the ongoing story of the debut of a new low bridge warning curtain system on both sides of the infamous 12 foot clearance Independence Avenue Bridge.

After much prodding, the city’s Public Works Department finally released blueprints for the soon to be installed warning curtain system. Our story about the warning system is drawn primarily from a public meeting called by 4th District City Councilman Crispin Rea when it was learned that no public engagement sessions were held to make local business stakeholders aware of the pending install that could impact their business operations.

Roughly fifteen business owners and managers attended the session that ended with a city engineer promising more public sessions to discuss install locations.

12) The low bridge warning curtain was our top news story in December too, as headlined in our December 13th edition, “Warning curtain install continues despite business concerns”. The story spotlighted the continued protests of Taqueria Mexico owner Daniel Yuman objecting to errant truck drivers attempting to navigate the restaurant’s tight parking lot and potentially damaging both customer and employee vehicles in the process. All the while, the city’s Public Works Department continued their installation in front of Yuman’s restaurant with the response from City Engineer Nick Bosonetto saying, “we’ll monitor it.”

And with that, we put a neat little bow on 2023 and look forward to what 2024 will bring us here at the Little Shop of News. We’ve got some exciting things planned for this spring, including the hiring of a new Managing Editor and a new Community Engagement Strategist that we hope brings a new dimension to your locally owned non-profit news outlet.