Tenant Feature No. 1 - Hagoyah, Angela Cronk

Introduce yourself. Tell us a bit about what’s been going on for you lately?

My name is Angela Cronk. I own Hagoyah Hair Studio and Yoga Den in the heart of Waldo, at 515 W 75th St. I’ve been in the community for five years. We actually had our fifth anniversary in January. We’ve got about twenty employees and we serve about 3000-3500 guests in the community through yoga, hair services, massages, facials, and just overall better self-care.

Did you grow up in Kansas City?

Yeah, I actually grew up north of the river. As soon as I graduated high school, and about one year into community college, I moved to Arizona. And then after that I moved to California, and then Philadelphia. So I was away for about ten years, and then I came back and moved to this part of town.

What brings you back? What’s attractive to you about Kansas City?

Kansas City, it’s home, so that’s attractive, and I was just ready to come home. I was away for ten years, and I felt that I wanted to settle and do something. And I felt like this is a good place to do that. I felt like there was more opportunity to grow here.

Can you speak a bit about your journey as a stylist and yoga instructor as well as some of the broad steps you've taken along the way to starting your own business?

I started practicing yoga when I first moved to Arizona, and loved it. The challenge that I found was that it was very exclusive because of the cost or the investment to attend yoga classes or to have a membership, in addition to having a gym membership somewhere else. Eating fresh, healthy food, that can be pricey too. So after practicing yoga for about ten years, and visiting various yoga studios, and getting to know different styles and types of yoga, really ultimately trying to find the best bargain, and finding a good fit for me overall brought me to this space of Hagoyah. I’ve been a stylist for over fifteen years, and I love the industry, and I love the idea of making people feel good. And what I wanted to do was to combine those two passions of making people feel good and providing yoga classes under one roof, and ultimately bring back that once a week experience of self-care that our grandmothers had back in the day when they would get their hair done once a week. And now nobody wears their hair like that, so there’s no need for that, so women more or less lost that hour once a week of self-care. I’m hoping to bring that back through yoga as well as other services at Hagoyah.

What went on when you first started your business?

At first it was an idea. And then it was just talking to people, saying that I had an idea to do this. It’s kind of like, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” It was this domino effect of meeting all the right people at all the right times. Getting connected with various organizations that are available for entrepreneurs, like Score. So first up, learning how to write a business plan. And then getting connected with an attorney to create an operating agreement. Everything lined up on the path, really.

Was it what you expected when you first started?

No. I don’t think there’s anything that can prepare you for opening a business, and I don’t think that there’s anything you could do differently. I think you really have to live it to get that experience and to get that knowledge and that foundation to be successful, because you do try a lot of things. I feel like I did everything I could as far as attending seminars, and webinars, and reading books, and books on tape, and just utilizing as many resources as I could, but experience really says it all. I think the one thing that stands out the most was that I called over thirty banks, on the phone or in some banks you could walk in. One thing that really stood out was…Well, I recently got married…

Congratulations!

Thanks! My husband had shared, “If it was me walking in to those banks five years ago, they would’ve said yes. But you’re a girl. You have great credit, you have a great business model, but you’re a woman, and that’s why nobody took you seriously.” And I was like, “Shit, that’s true.” That’s why I have to struggle so hard, but it was worth it to be strong and tenacious.

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How does your experience as a woman flavor the way that you run your business?

It definitely has changed the way I’ve flavored it. And I think having that insight that I just shared from my husband, I realize that I was so naïve back then. I just thought I was getting rejected, thinking, “Well, maybe I don’t have enough money saved up, or maybe this business model is dumb.” But no, we made a profit the first year, it’s a great business model, it works. I do feel that the reason that people maybe didn’t take me seriously was that I was a woman. The way that that’s changed the way that I do business is I’ve always had the mindset that people have good intentions, and humans are genuinely good people, and everybody is looking out for everyone’s best interest. I’ve created stronger boundaries. Not that you don’t genuinely care about me, but I need to protect my business. I guess I’ve gotten kind of a momma bear mindset. I will protect myself, and I will protect my business first, and I definitely need to be more assertive, and not so much super happy yoga teacher all the time. I’m a business owner first, but I’m also a yoga teacher and a hairdresser.

What are some proud moments you can recall from your history as a business owner?

We’ve been featured in various yoga publications online, like on Yoga Anonymous we were one of the top ten yoga studios in the country that you’ve got to go check out. In Pitch best of in 2016, we were voted one of the top three yoga studios. It’s almost like every day is a proud moment. I think as of late, I’ve learned to delegate and let things go. I think part of running a business is you learn how to do everything and then you can kind of let it go and give direction. The people that have taken on certain tasks that I used to do have just run with it and made it so much better. Everything’s been, I don’t know, mind blowing. I’m really, really proud of my team, and really proud of the Hagoyah tribe that I’ve been able to attract and train. They’re just brilliant.

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I think it’s cool to do this interview five years on, just to see the ways that you’ve grown and evolved in that time. Talking of self-care, do you as a business owner feel like you can provide yourself with the same self-care that you try to provide for others?

You mean, am I a hypocrite? [laughter]

[laughter] I just mean is your day so chock full that you can’t take advantage of the services you offer?

I made a commitment starting at the end of last year to practice better self-care. Sundays are my Sabbath. I can’t do it on a Saturday since we’re open on Saturday, but Sundays are a day for making zero commitments and just letting that be a chill day. And then on Mondays trying to find just an hour to maybe go practice yoga. I have a friend that’s treating me to IV nutrition this afternoon. I’ve never done that. They’re going to sponsor a yoga festival, so I thought I should check them out. And it was a gift. As far as utilizing the services in the building, it’s hard for me to do that because I’m always working. So if I’m taking a yoga class there, I’m inspecting and thinking about, you know, is that person safe, or what’s that smell. If I’m getting a massage and there’s some noise going on. I will squeeze in my haircut there though.

What do you think attracted you to the Waldo area specifically?

What brought me back to Kansas City initially was living on either coast, I feel like there’s a heartbeat here. I especially feel that in the Waldo/Brookside area that people genuinely love being from here, and that there’s a community. I mean, there is a legit community. People that live here really love living here, and they’re proud of their space, and they want to take care of it, and they want to improve it. And I don’t know if there’s anywhere else like the Waldo area that’s in Kansas City.

I wanted to make sure I asked about your dogs.

The two Chihuahuas, Roxy and Lobo. Their full names, just for the record, it’s a mommy and one of her pups, Sugar Roxanne Velveeta Conchita Consuela Cronk, but her friends call her Roxy. And then there’s Prince Lobo Spuntz Baguette Turd Ferguson Walter Cronk, but his friends call him Lobo. So Roxy and Lobo, they love going into the business. I live right down the street so I feel like when I’m going on a walk, and we walk into the business, they’re like, “Aw mom, you tricked us! We’re not going to the park!” But they like hanging out there, meeting all the guests. They understand that mommy works a lot, but it’s for Hagoyah.

I hope they get a bit of self-care too. Are there places in Waldo, or even Kansas City in general that you really like to frequent?

I really enjoy the new Ruby Jean’s Juicery. It’s fantastic, over there on Troost. It’s an up and coming area. I also like the Unbaked Juicery on 63rd St. I think they’re doing really great stuff inside there. Can I Have a Bite? is right by there too. I really like going there. I’ll make a shameless plug for Karma Tribe Yoga, a sister studio.

Where do you see your business in another two or three or five years?

I definitely see different locations, and I think the newer model would be just a little bit smaller. We’ve made the shift, we’re no longer carrying Paul Mitchell products. Our primary hair care line we’re switching to Euphora, which matches our values a little bit more. They’re more plant based. There’s no sulfates. I think making that shift will offer the opportunity for more retail items other than just hair care products. So we’re hoping to offer cool things like sage sticks, fun Hagoyah gear, stuff that people would want to invest in.   

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Was there anything else you had on your mind that you’d like to speak about?

I did want to share that we do a monthly giving. We’ve actually structured it, it’s one of the things I’ve delegated, to a bi-monthly giving. I think it’s an important business model, and also part of yoga philosophy of giving back. We’re finishing up with the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project. This week we’re actually doing an interim giving back of a bra drive, so ladies can drop off their gently used bras and it will go toward a sex trafficking response program. Giving back has always been part of our business model.

Have you guys had good participation?

Yeah, it’s actually been really good. We’ve had people that approach us all the time. I guess it’s another proud moment when you get the thank you card saying, “Thank you so much. Your donation has helped to do this and that.” At the end of the day, it’s not like I really miss that cash. It feels really good to give back to the community, and I think that’s just kind of how you’re supposed to do business.

What about your landlord-tenant relationship?

It’s the best!       

Response to Missouri Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Decision

This morning, Governor Eric Greitens, his appointee Jason Crowell, and the rest of the Missouri Housing Development Commission voted not to allocate $140 million in state low income housing tax credits (LIHTC) this upcoming year. Eric Greitens has called LIHTC a “special interest” tax credit, and he has said the tax credit is inefficient.

This runs counter to a study, “Cost/Benefit Analysis of the Missouri Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program” from the Missouri Housing Development Commission. This study found the following:

  • Each dollar of state tax credit awarded generates $9.60 of economic activity.
  • Each dollar of state tax credit awarded increases state gross domestic product (GDP) by $5.45.
  • Rents would have to increase 18.7% to 24.3% in order to absorb the additional costs from the elimination of Missouri LIHTC.

LIHTC provide housing for senior citizens, working families, and veterans. These developments stabilize families, positively impact neighborhoods, and keep children from being homeless.

Outside of the negative economic implications of this decision, we also have what I believe is a moral responsibility. It is hard for me to comprehend how someone can think that increased homelessness and poverty for the most vulnerable in our society (senior citizens, working families, children, individuals with mental health diagnoses, veterans, etc.) is a good idea in any way. This will be hurtful, long lasting, and economically inefficient.

We have had the opportunity to be engaged in two projects to provide affordable housing for these vulnerable communities. We know first-hand how important this work is, and we are saddened by this development. We hope that the commission will reconsider this decision.

Learn and Maintain

Much of our business at the Botwin office involves the ongoing maintenance of older buildings. Arthel was built in 1924, 75 Waldo in 1904, and the Waldo Building in 1924.  While there is much to admire in the craftsmanship and quality of materials that went into erecting these structures, there are also many ways in which these buildings can show their age.

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In looking to complete some tuck-pointing around Summit Grill, we recently had the pleasure of working with Haynes Masonry Works. Neville Haynes has many decades of masonry experience, and it is always interesting to hear both the ins and outs of his profession, as well as to watch him execute his skills in repairing our building. He explained the ways in which brick masonry of that time sought to achieve impermeability (in this case the walls are 18 in. thick and completely composed of brick). He was also able to tuck-point this brick in a manner consistent with its original construction. In the end, we’re really glad that our building is, once again, safely water-tight.

7509 Penn Duplex is Complete

It has been an exciting month for Botwin Commercial Development! After months of work on the 7509 Penn duplex, we completed the project and celebrated with a grand opening event on July 27. However, we celebrated more than just a duplex, we celebrated the collaboration it took to build it.

When we first started brainstorming ideas for the property, we knew we wanted the project to aid in learning, to feature high-quality design and materials and to be affordable. As a result, we knew the best way to achieve our goals was to collaborate.

We teamed up with el dorado inc., an architectural firm that was looking for a project partner for its work with Kansas State University’s Design+Make Studio which provides hands-on learning experience for its architecture students. The student’s involvement on the project not only provided experience for them but helped keep costs lower, contributing to the affordability goal. General contractor Studio Build was integral to the collaboration as well, ensuring construction was well executed while educating students along the way.

After seeing the Design+Make Studio students’ professional growth during the collaboration, we decided we wanted the duplex to continue contributing to learning. We partnered with Hale Cook Elementary School in Waldo and asked those who attended our grand opening to support the school’s “Cook Cash” program. Students earn "Cook Cash" for being safe, respectful and responsible and can then use it to purchase items from a store in the school.  

As part of the grand opening celebration, we invited those who helped us make the duplex a reality to each break a glass. This is a tradition that is normally part of a Jewish wedding, but we think it has special relevance to this project. Breaking the glass at a wedding is meant to remind everyone of tragedy. It provides a symbol, a sound, that pauses the celebration. In this case, it reminds us that although we are proud to provide this affordable housing, we still have more work to do. We live in a time when having a roof over your head is considered a privilege and not a right. We live in a time when affordable housing is perceived to be synonymous with thoughtless design, lackadaisical construction, and impoverished communities. We think that housing is a right, and that when addressing social and economic challenges, development must be thoughtfully designed and expertly constructed.

We are excited to be able to share this project with our collaborators, our neighbors, the greater Waldo community and with the residents who will soon call the 7509 Penn duplex their home!

Diane No. 4

            Outside my office window sits a small courtyard with a garden bed to the side. Our landscaping vendor has previously prepped the bed with mulch, and I can see the beginnings of plant life now peeking out. It’s always such an exciting time of year, I think mostly because in all of this nascent growth I can see so much future potential. As I mentioned in my last post, there are so many ways in which I can appreciate, deeply, the planted roof we have at 500 W 75th St. Much like the garden bed outside of my office, it too is beginning to spring forth from dormancy.

courtyardgarden

These plants and grasses have lived and grown with me for many years now, and each spring I have the chance to reflect on where we all are today. With the excitement and uncertainty that each year brings, I know that the flora around me will be here, growing, through all of it. Although I can’t stop and have a conversation with a blade of grass or a flower, in many other ways I do have an ongoing relationship with these plants. As they struggle and persevere and hopefully triumph, so do I do the same. Furthermore, when I can stop and appreciate the beauty contained in the landscape, I also have the chance to reflect on how much I value the skilled work of our landscaping vendor, Doug Davison.

Construction of the duplex at 7509 Penn is moving steadily along. Like the plants in my garden bed, this duplex project coming to life promises so much (uncertain) potential. How will the duplex tenants interact with their living space? How will the building interact with the surrounding neighborhood? How will our interaction with the duplex grow and change on a business level? While the perennial plants have been with me for years now, this new duplex is just being born. I, for one, am very excited to see how the duplex fits into the surrounding environment when the plants return from dormancy in Spring of next year.   

Diane No. 3 (roof leaks)

Owing to a recent roof leak, I had occasion to climb up onto the roof of the Botwin Building. As I ascended the ladder and stepped through the hatch, I was greeted with the spread of tall, currently dormant grasses that live on top of the building. Swaying to and fro in the wind, the grasses sang a dry, crackly song as they brushed against one another. I was tired and nervous about the roof, and anxious to get this problem resolved.

roofgrass

Joining our roofing vendor in the area of the leak, we went about discussing a probable diagnosis and appropriate course of action. Our roof landscaper would have to be involved, and this was likely going to be somewhat of a chore. My mind traveled to areas of potential problems, high costs, and inconvenienced tenants. As we walked back across the roof, I lightly stubbed my toe on a length of gas conduit obscured by the grasses. I winced. The group of us stepped down the ladder and I could feel my mood taking a turn for the negative. The pleasantness of the rooftop grasses now struck me as a liability in the successful repair of the roof.

In the coming weeks, all of the attendant roof issues would come to resolution. All of the vendors involved did a great job, and I have not had to let loose any more expletives as a result of this roof leak. What seems to strikes me now as I am sitting down to write about this experience, is how quickly my thoughts and feelings could morph into such sour grapes.

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I am not by any means advocating a willing ignorance of anger as it wells up inside of you. If you stub your toe, by all means let your frustration fly free. What I am promoting, especially in myself, is a deliberate and hopefully daily focus on those things that do make me feel a sense of appreciation.

Beautiful roof grasses, great vendors, and the privilege to own and maintain a building about which I care deeply, are among the many things for which I am thankful. As spring starts to come on line and what has been dormant now begins to grow, I encourage everyone to take some time to think about all those things around them that are worth some good appreciation.

Diane No. 2

The Social Economic Environmental Design Network recently recognized the 7540 Washington apartments, a project about which I am very passionate, with an honorable mention for excellence in public interest design. Receiving such an award gave me pause not only to consider how fortunate I am to have been able to participate in such an endeavor, but also to think back on the process by which 7540 Washington came into being. While collaboration, organization and creativity are all crucial pieces of the pie, here I’d like to consider the central role of loving kindness in a project such as this.

7540 Washington Apartments, photo by Mike Sinclair

In a passage from The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky writes, “In scattering…your kind deeds, you are giving away, in one form or another, part of your personality, and taking into yourself part of another; you are in mutual communion with another…You will come at last to look upon your work as a science; it will lay hold of all your life, and may fill up your whole life. On the other hand, all your thoughts, all the seeds scattered by you, perhaps forgotten by you, will grow up and take form. He who has received them from you will hand them on to another.” Acts of kindness are not merely linear processes, whereby one with means gives while one in need receives. They are much, much greater than the sum of their parts.

I, along with the whole design/development/implementation team, did approach 7540 Washington “as a science.” Everyone worked hard, and sought forward-­‐thinking solutions to the issues at hand. Although I take great pride in all that I was able to contribute to these beautiful apartments, what is most amazing about this project is what is not yet known. For all of the young adults currently living at 7540, and for those who will live there in the future, their contributions to each other and the community are only just starting to materialize. I am so excited to see how the loving kindness of the team of which I was a part, will grow and evolve as it passes through the hands of others. Happy Valentines Day.

Diane No. 1

I am starting my blogging career with a story about courage, tenacity and perseverance. It involves creativity. It is filled with love, trust and honesty. It also is a story of tragedy, survival, and growth. Ultimately, it might be just a story about friendship and women.

In 1986 I started a small commercial real estate company In Waldo with the help, support and guidance of my parents. A few years into my new business I decided to buy another building in Waldo and try my hand at development. That’s when I met Sharon Miller. Sharon sat down with me and my father to pitch her idea - renting exquisite ballgowns and evening wear to women so they could afford to enjoy glamourous clothing that otherwise would be out of their price bracket, rather than purchasing an item that they only needed once or twice. What a novel and brilliant idea, I thought. I told Sharon that I was interested in working with her.

Well, not so fast girls. A woman-owned start-up real estate company and a woman-owned start-up business weren’t exactly fitting into the male dominated, conservative financing or real estate development market at that time. Sharon could not find funding for her idea for several years, but that never stopped her. We consulted and consoled each other. My father tried to open doors for her. Sharon sought funding through the SBA and finally, we figured it out. Sharon opened the Gown Gallery at 515 W.75th Street in Waldo in 1994.

As her business grew, so did mine. Sharon expanded to bridal wear, started selling gowns and honed her skills of providing a unique and personal experience for each of her customers. My business grew too and I learned volumes about financing, leasing, developing and managing real estate.

Fast forward to the early 2000s; I redeveloped the Waldo Building (500 West 75th Street) and Sharon moved her business there in 2002. It was a beautifully designed, haute couture bridal salon. It was everything Sharon and I had dreamed about; it was gorgeous.

Then, in February 2007, it all went up in flames; literally, flames. My building was on fire and Sharon’s entire business was burning up. Even remembering it now causes me to feel a lump in my stomach. It was surreal. The story could have ended there, but, it didn’t. Sharon rallied and so did I. It was tragic and painful. It took a long time to recover from the fire and it was very debilitating at moments. We cried a lot. Sharon’s path after the fire lead her away from Waldo and we even thought our story together was reaching its end when she moved into another property downtown. But it wasn’t.

In 2010 Sharon moved into one of my buildings in the Crossroads Arts District. It was like a sigh of relief for both of us. We’d made it through adversity and now we could focus on the present, the future and the joy of working hard and being creative. I hope you look at Sharon’s website, www.gowngallery.com, so you can see just how lovely her bridal salon is. My business and my life is happier because of my long-term relationship with this remarkable woman.

Throwback thursday - Botwin in the News

Botwin Commercial Development and its properties have been featured in a variety of local and national publications.

About Botwin Commercial Development

Botwin Commercial Development’s mission is to operate under its triple bottom line of financial, social and environmental business practices by providing commercial development appropriate for the neighborhoods it serves and collaborating with local artists in the process.