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Banking on KC – Dan Castillo of Manor Records

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host, Kelly Scanlon. Thank you for joining us with us on this episode is Dan Castillo, the owner of The Mockingbird Lounge and the president and driving force behind Manor Records, a nonprofit record bar and label in the Strawberry Hill District of Kansas City, Kansas. Welcome, Dan.

Dan Castillo:

Hi, thank you for having me.

Kelly Scanlon:

Manor Records has a bit of an unusual business model. Tell us about that.

Dan Castillo:

I've been brainstorming on having a nonprofit bar for a while. My partner, Shaun Crowley, came up to me and wanted to open up a record store in Strawberry Hill, and I just kind of asked him if he wanted to put the two things together. It will be a record store, a neighborhood bar, a record label, and somewhat of just a social cafe space for local musicians and just locals in Strawberry Hill in general.

Kelly Scanlon:

There's a community-building aspect of it as well. I want to go back to the nonprofit component. What does that allow you to do that you might not have been able to do otherwise?

Dan Castillo:

I was trying to problem-solve some of the problems that we have here on Strawberry Hill and just wanted to benefit the community in the quickest and most direct way possible. What I find the most interesting is just benefiting the community directly. And with a nonprofit, nobody's taking home quarterly checks from the profit of the business and all of those resources and capital are going directly to benefit, in this case, the musicians of Kansas City and the Strawberry Hill neighborhood.

Kelly Scanlon:

In what specific ways? Let's start with the musicians. How is it benefiting the musicians? What is that money being used for specifically?

Dan Castillo:

Sure. We'll help with the marketing of each band on the label. We can put out album release parties. We even intend on pressing vinyl maybe once or twice a year for a musician who puts an album out. And in other ways, just have a space to speak to musicians to accomplish the goals that they have specifically, and then whatever being a musician is to them will help facilitate that.

Kelly Scanlon:

You're also going to be reinvesting in the Kansas City community with just some cleanup and infrastructure types of situations. Talk to us about those.

Dan Castillo:

Right. People have been saying Strawberry Hill is an up-and-coming neighborhood since I moved here 13 years ago, and it is a very charming neighborhood. I love it here. I've lived on Strawberry Hill for five years. But there are some kind of shortcomings as far as like infrastructure. There are no public trash cans on our main streets. We could use more lighting at night on our streets. Sidewalks could really benefit resurfacing. Those are the things that I want to focus on with the funds coming out of Manor Records.

Kelly Scanlon:

Now, will you be able to do that independently or will you be working with community partners and with the Kansas City, Kansas government? How will that work?

Dan Castillo:

Yeah, there are matching funding programs that will help us fund those kinds of projects.

Kelly Scanlon:

Dan, you're also the vice president of the Strawberry Hill Neighborhood Association. How do your goals with Manor Records line up with the goals of the neighborhood association? Are you working together at all?

Dan Castillo:

Yeah, we are. I've been the vice president of the Strawberry Hill Neighborhood Association for about three years now. The nonprofit small business network kind of idea actually originated from neighborhood meetings, board meetings amongst me and the other six board members, and it was all intended to be a part of the Strawberry Hill Neighborhood Association itself, but we never got any traction becoming a 501(c)(3), so I took that on myself. But in the process, there are board members who work with nonprofits and work for nonprofits, and they've definitely assisted us in talking to the right people, filling out the right forms, and just overall guiding us to get this done.

Kelly Scanlon:

You have been, as you said, a member of the Strawberry Hill community for several years now. You're interested in investing in it. It didn't just start with Manor Records. You've operated The Mockingbird Lounge in the area for several years. I believe since 2017. Tell us about how that venture came about.

Dan Castillo:

I bartended through college, and then I started bar managing for only about a year out of college. I just didn't like working for people.

Kelly Scanlon:

Like most entrepreneurs. Yeah.

Dan Castillo:

Yeah. It seemed inefficient. In one situation, I had four bosses, and it was just kind of a constant case of cognitive dissonance. When I opened the bar, I specifically wanted to be the only owner so I didn't have to argue or have a meeting about what color the chairs were going to be. I have an art degree. I can take care of all that pretty quickly and just make decisions on my own. I found the building that The Mockingbird is in on Craigslist and I called them. And over the course of two months, I beat out the other two gentlemen who wanted to open restaurants in it. I was just a 27-year-old kid. Didn't really know what I was doing, but I learned very quickly under a lot of pain.

Kelly Scanlon:

You got to tell me about the name though, The Mockingbird Lounge. Where did that come from?

Dan Castillo:

I liked the name Mockingbird. It seems strong. It's ambiguous. You couldn't really tell what the bar would be about thematically, so it would help me pivot. Mockingbirds steal songs from other birds. I wanted to use the best systems that I had learned through my time bartending and bar managing and apply all the best, most efficient systems to my bar. I stole other birds' songs.

Kelly Scanlon:

You quickly realized that the Strawberry Hill community itself had possibilities, and so you started having a keen interest in investing. When Shaun approached you... That was this summer in 2021 that he approached you about Manor Records and finding a building? And you knew just the location. Tell us about the building that you're leasing and why it is such a good spot.

Dan Castillo:

Well, it's on one of the main strips, Sixth Street, which has a lot of space for economic growth. I just so happened to be living across the street from it. Every time I walk to my car and get into my car, I was just staring at this empty building for three or four months. And I was like, man, something really cool could be there, but I didn't really have a plan for anything at that time. But like I do, I would just daydream of what possibly would work there, what kind of bar. I was really, really thinking about this nonprofit bar situation, but I didn't really want to spearhead it on my own. I had done that before. I'd rather not do it again, trying to keep as much of my hair as possible.

Dan Castillo:

It's at 401 North Sixth Street. It's owned by Matthew Tomasic. The Tomasic's are a really big family here on Strawberry Hill. Have a lot of history on Strawberry Hill. He hadn't rented it or leased it out. Man, it must have been sitting there for six to nine months and I was wondering why nobody was picking it up. And then when I approached Shaun and we decided, yeah, we want to give this a go, Matthew Tomasic specifically wanted something to go there that would benefit the neighborhood. I know he is a huge driving force behind PAL, the boxing gym for youth up the street. He has quite a bit invested and he wants the best for the neighborhood as well. When he heard our pitch, I guess you would call it, he really liked it.

Dan Castillo:

He thought it was great, that it would benefit the neighborhood, and we were on the same page. And that's how we got that building.

Kelly Scanlon:

Where do you see this going long-term? And how do you see it really changing the Strawberry Hill neighborhood?

Dan Castillo:

Manor Records is a proof of concept for me and my plans moving forward. If it works, the way I think it will work, it'll benefit everybody. It'll create jobs, jobs that I can be replaced and the business will not miss a step. Pretty plug and play. I don't expect to be there in my role forever. Someone else can be the president of Manor Records down the road if this survives, but it's a proof of concept to other nonprofit businesses that I would like to erect in the future. I'd like to have five or six small businesses that work as nonprofits that benefit the neighborhood primarily. The more the merrier. The more businesses that work and benefit the neighborhood, add a utility to the neighborhood.

Dan Castillo:

We don't have a pet store on Strawberry Hill. Everybody has to drive like 20 minutes to get any kind of decent dog food for their dogs. There's an idea. I would like to open up a pet store. But in concert, all of the businesses and their profits would go to revitalize the streets, the sidewalks, trash cans, and stuff like that. Manor Records is really important to me in proving to me and proving financially that it can work.

Kelly Scanlon:

So often in the press, the Legends and other parts of Kansas City, Kansas get the spotlight. What you're are doing is saying we have a viable neighborhood here?

Dan Castillo:

Right. No, absolutely. I haven't been here forever. I've only lived in Kansas City for 13 years, and I've heard the horror stories of KCK from the past and this negative memory association that they have with Downtown KCK is outdated. And I would like to just shine some light on Strawberry Hill and just show that it's changing.

Kelly Scanlon:

It certainly has a rich history, full of small businesses, a tight-knit neighborhood. There is, as you see, so much potential there. You have this building that you're leasing and you're fixing it up. When do you anticipate opening?

Dan Castillo:

We're aiming for early February. Hopefully the first week of February.

Kelly Scanlon:

Okay. So just in a couple of months then. You've already held a couple of benefit shows. Those were in October, I believe. So fairly recently. And that's helping you with the build-out and some of the other things that you need to do to prepare for the opening, but you're still looking for funding, right?

Dan Castillo:

Oh, always. With the nonprofit thing, we're all always fundraising. I know we have some cassettes of our bands on the record label for sale through the Manor Record website. We have that going to raise some funds. We'll have a couple more benefit shows coming up. Again, they're onmanorrecords.com. The GoFundMe is still running. If you'd like to know more about how we're going to be benefiting local musicians and the Strawberry Hill neighborhood community, please feel free to visit us at the Manor Records website at manorrecords.com.

Kelly Scanlon:

Manorrecords.com. You can go out there. You can see the merchandise that they have for sale that will go into restoring this building and getting it ready for its February opening, as well as just direct contributions that you can make. Thank you so much, Dan, for being our guest today, telling us about your vision for the Strawberry Hill area and everything that you're doing to revitalize it. We really appreciate it.

Dan Castillo:

Yeah. Thank you for having me. My pleasure.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, president of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Dan Castillo for being our guest. On this episode of Banking on KC. The Kansas City area is home to dozens of historic neighborhoods. Some of them have been forgotten or neglected over the years, but many are being rediscovered. Local governments, developers, and residents are reinvesting in them and restoring their old charm, while adding modern amenities. Strawberry Hill is one of those neighborhoods. Situated on the bluffs, overlooking the spot where two mighty rivers, the Kansas and the Missouri, meet, Strawberry Hill has been a place where cultures also intersect creating a small but mighty neighborhood rich in diversity.

Joe Close:

Today, a confluence of ideas and efforts among residents and business owners like Dan continues to sustain the vibrancy of Strawberry Hill. Country Club Bank has long recognized that when our individual neighborhoods thrive, the entire metro flourishes. We appreciate the vision of people like Dan, who believe in and work to make our community stronger. Thanks for tuning in this week. We're banking on you, Kansas City. Country Club Bank, member FDIC.

 

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