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Gift Shop Necessities Company, 3309 Troost Avenue

There weren´t any men associated with Gift Shop Necessities Company, a successful business which was started by women, employed women, and sold its products to women. It began in 1921 when Florence M. Fenner and Ada M. Kassimer with only $68 between them opened a business. What they manufactured were called beautilites, a work Kassimer coined to describe utilitarian products that were also items of beauty for the home.

The design and decoration of apartments and houses underwent a change in the 1920s when kitchens were incorporated into the living area. Fenner and Kassimer sensed that a new market was opening up before their eyes and decided to give everyday kitchen items a dash of color and a spritely design since the objects would be seen more.

They rented rooms in a building located at 3309 Troost Avenue, subletting all but one since the operation was small. But not for long. They decided to add decorated pottery to their line. Mixing bowls, candy jars, and cookie boxes became beautilities as did perfume bottles, dorines, and jardiniers. Housewives eagerly bought all the company could produce.

The clay for the pottery was brought to Kansas City from Calboun, Missouri, and the workers, mainly girls attending the Kansas City Art Institute, modeled the pieces that were fired in kilns at Pittsburg, Kansas. Upon their return to Kansas City the items were decorated.

The first year´s sales totaled $2,700, the next year´s doubled, and the numbers kept growing. Outgrowing the space on Troost Avenue, in the spring of 1928 they moved into a building they had constructed at 2619–21 Cherry Street. In 1929 the business produced over 1 million items and employed 25 women.

Kansas City Women of Independent Minds, Jane Fifield Flynn