The structure we are now calling home was originally a wagon repair structure in the early 1900’s. The building was built around 1920-21. It was one of the first “strip” buildings in the downtown area. It housed 4 different businesses. In 1940, P.C. Williamson Grocery Store opened at 106 SE 3rd Street. In 1946, Clarence Brown Shoe Store opened at 104 SE 3rd Street. The grocery store changed hands a few months later to AG Food Mart, which carried more “fancy” items than before. At that time, the town of Lee’s Summit, MO, was listed as the third largest city in land mass in Missouri. Downtown was the thriving part of the city and most businesses made their home in the downtown area. The Vogue Theater was showing the latest flicks on the big screen. The cost of admission was 20¢ plus 2¢ federal tax (even then the government was getting their 2¢ worth). The theater was located on Douglas Street and part of their original building is now Maxwell’s. Crime was the lowest in the metro area, although there were only two policemen. One worked days and his brother worked nights.
In approximately 1950-51, Mildred & Jasper Brown opened a restaurant in what was once the shoe store and named it Browns Steakhouse. They served homestyle food from the recipes that had been passed down from Mildred’s mother, along with steaks cut from the family herd. The place was a huge success. Customers loved the fact that they could come here and get the same food that they were raised on, but not have to cook it themselves. Mildred and Jasper lived in the back of the restaurant and it has been said that if someone came knocking on the back door after hours, Mildred would open her arms and restaurant to feed them.
The Lee’s Summit Journal (dated August 1, 1957) had an article about the new owners of the recently closed Browns Steakhouse. They were opening the restaurant August 5, 1957, as the Kozy Korner Cafe. The operators were Mary Lentz & Gordon Adams. Mary had once operated the Ranch House on old Highway 40 in Independence, MO. Mary did all the cooking. Gordon was the one that you saw every day out front talking to his guests. It has been said though that Gordon would run you off if you were not going to spend money in his place. You could not come in, drink coffee and just sit around visiting. He wanted the seats for his paying customers.
They had the restaurant until early 1969 when they sold to Larry Kenemore. Larry renamed the restaurant the Chuck Wagon. The Lee’s Summit Journal (dated May 1, 1969) reported that Larry doubled the dining space by purchasing the adjoining appliance store owned by George Whiting. He added a beautiful new front to both buildings, changed the entry way, and started staying open 7 days a week. An additional 990 sq. ft. were added to the restaurant. The restaurant served its food “smorgasboard” style, and allowed their guests to go back as many times as they wanted, all for one price. On June 3, 1969, Larry was granted a liquor license and started selling alcohol. This was met with mixed emotions from his guests. Some were offended that he would allow the “devil’s blood” to be served there, since the town was predominately a Baptist community at the time. Some business was lost as first, but it also helped attract some of the new people that were moving to town to come in and try his place.
In 1971, Mr. Kenemore sold his restaurant to Linda & O.C. Roberts, who renamed the restaurant Linda’s Restaurant & Steakhouse. O.C. was the former Chief of Police in Lee’s Summit. At any given time, you could find some of Lee’s Summit’s finest dining in their new restaurant. The April 1973 telephone book lists the restaurant as “Family Restaurant”. It is believed to be owned by Ed Jackson, although he did not have it very long and this could not be verified. In 1973, the city passed legislation to build a new fire station on Douglas Street. A restaurant named the Country Kitchen was located on the land and would be torn down for the construction of the fire station. Ida Barnes moved her business to our building and sometime in 1974-75, she renamed it Ida’s Place.
In 1977, Ida sold the restaurant to Wes & Francis Ford. They named the restaurant Fords Family Restaurant. The Fords got back to the basics; going back to the traditional “homestyle”, made-from-scratch cooking. Everything was brought in fresh and prepped back in the kitchen by Mrs. Ford. The food was served in large portions at a good price. This was the era of a new style of dining establishments, with fancy cooking methods, fine ingredients, and “certified chefs”. The Fords knew that the locals here in Lee’s Summit wanted “normal” food, so they stuck with their style of cooking.
In 1988, Francis and Wes were getting up in years and the restaurant business was getting busier, so they decided to sell to Nick & Cheryl Thompson. They renamed the restaurant Thompson’s Restaurant. The Thompsons kept the same type of food, but personalized their operation by talking to their guests and making people feel like this was their home. Everyone in their family worked here. The kids were seen rolling silverware, bussing tables, and making pies. In 1991, a fire began in the kitchen and the restaurant sustained extensive damage. It was closed for several months while the place was rebuilt and reopened in 1992.
In November of 1995, the Thompsons sold to Sue & Dave Meador. Sue had a restaurant in Independence, MO, called Sue’s Kitchen for 4 years. She felt she had outgrown the location and was looking for something larger when she learned that Thompsons was for sale. Sue bought the restaurant and renamed it Sue’s Kitchen. She started making her homemade cinnamon rolls and gave them out to every guest. The cinnamon rolls became a staple item at the restaurant; everyone asked about them and wanted the recipe.
On February 14, 2001, the restaurant was sold to Don & Sheryl Roberts and Phil Roberts. Don had wanted a place of his own for a few years and he heard that Sue wanted to sell. Upon looking at the restaurant, Don decided that this was exactly what he wanted, a down-home style place that had good food, great atmosphere, and a lot of history. Don renamed the restaurant Neighbor’s Cafe.
In January of 2011, Neighbor’s Cafe closed its doors. One month later, the restaurant was reopened as Neighborhood Cafe by Tony Olson, Bob Baker and Ben Wine. Neighborhood Cafe still serves the homestyle favorites everyone has come to love and, more importantly, carries on the cinnamon roll tradition! We invite you to come be a part of our history.