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After 21 years, KCK bar known for Reubens gets new owners. Here’s what they’re planning

In 1999, Mobil merged with Exxon, and Bob Breitenstein found himself out of a job.

“I’d worked for Mobil for more than 20 years, but I didn’t want to move to Houston,” he said. “They gave me a nice severance, and all of a sudden I had some free time. I’d always wanted to open a bar. So I bought this building and started working on it.”

The building, at 412 N. Fifth Street in the Strawberry Hill neighborhood of Kansas City, Kansas, was a pool hall called Stanko’s in the 1950s and ’60s, but had sat dormant for about 30 years.

In 2002, Breitenstein opened Breit’s Stein and Deli there. The corner bar has been a Strawberry Hill anchor ever since — a neighborhood joint frequented by local lawyers, judges, municipal workers, blue-collar tradespeople and big Wyandotte County families like Breitenstein’s.

The bar is now old enough to legally order a drink. But Breitenstein, who turns 68 in February, is tabbing out. He has sold Breit’s and the building.

The buyers are John McClelland and Johnathan Griffiths, who are brothers-in-law and executives at the nearby produce wholesale company Liberty Fruit Co., about three miles away.

“We’re not changing anything,” McClelland said. “Maybe a few small cosmetic upgrades: bigger bathrooms, and maybe cover part of the patio out back and add heat lamps to make it more usable year-round. But that’s about it. We’re customers. We like how it is. We don’t want it to be something else.”

Stephenie Stewart, the longtime manager at Breit’s, will stay on.

“It doesn’t work without Steph,” McClelland said. “The friendliness of Breit’s comes from her and Bob, and we want that to remain.”

The Reuben will stick around, too. Breit’s has long been known for its Reuben, which at $6.95 is frequently cited as one of the best deals in the city. Breitenstein said they used to sell somewhere between 40 and 60 of them a day.

“Then over the summer, a TikTok person came in and did a post, and she had a bunch of followers, I guess, and now we’re selling 90 Reubens a day,” he said.

Breitenstein said he’s looking forward to traveling and attending his grandkids’ sporting events without having to worry about who’s working at the bar. He’s been pleased to watch the neighborhood outside his tavern windows change over the last 21 years.

“It used to be all drug deals and slumlords outside,” he said. “Now, we’ve got these young couples coming in and buying houses and fixing them up. The house right across the street was unoccupied for 20 years — the whole time I’ve had this bar. Now they got someone in there. It’s good to see.”