PAOLA — Thomas and Jennifer Wright are getting closer to being able to tell community members “What’s for Dinner?” at 115 W. Wea St.
The Paola couple, who operate All God’s Paws on the west side of Paola’s Park Square, are also in the midst of a massive rehabilitation project at the site of the former Shipman Liquor building on Wea Street. The structure, which was the original Kaiser furniture building in the early 1900s, has been vacant since 2012.
The Wrights took ownership of the deteriorating building late last year in an effort to keep it from being demolished, and they have relied heavily on volunteers and donated labor and supplies to try and meet the city’s requirements for making the structure safe.
Their ultimate goal is to turn the building into a pay-what-you-can restaurant called “What’s For Dinner?” The concept would allow community members in need to get a good meal and either pay the suggested donation or just pay what they can.
The concept is not a new one. Several pay-what-you-can restaurants have already opened across the country, including Thelma’s Kitchen in Kansas City, Mo.
City officials have applauded the effort but also stressed the importance of making the building safe, specifically sealing it up so water can no longer get in and potentially create issues for neighboring property owners.
After granting multiple deadline extensions, Paola City Council members heard the words they were hoping to hear during their October meeting, when Thomas Wright said the roof and windows have been installed and water is no longer getting into the structure.
City Manager Jay Wieland said the next step is for the Wrights to put together plans to acquire a building permit to complete the rest of the project, and the council granted an extension of 154 days until the March 10 council meeting to get that completed.
Thomas thanked the council for the extra time and said it is particularly beneficial because he is relying entirely on donations to complete the project.
“This is God’s vision through me,” Thomas said. “It’s in His time.”
He added that it has been amazing so far to watch God take control of the project. He gave an example of how he recently prayed about what he was going to do regarding the building’s exterior appearance, and the next day a volunteer showed up saying they wanted to paint the building.
Although weather and reliance on volunteers have slowed the schedule, Thomas said he is excited to move forward and complete the renovation of the building so he can open “What’s for Dinner?”
“We want to get past the construction phase and start feeding people,” he said.