The owner and founder of the Grinders Pizza brand, and for him branding is a very important element, is Stretch Rumaner, but he and all his creations are branded by the singular name STRETCH [all caps by design] He is larger than life character, vibrant and with a zest life and passion for food. He says tongue in cheek, his interest in opening a restaurant is owed to “the great popularity of eating.” “I was always a huge fan of eating, and it felt natural and even addictive; lots of other people around me seemed to really like it too, so why not make something fun and profitable out of that.” That realization was transformed by this incredibly creative artist [best known for his large-scale steel beam sculptures] into blending making things – not only food but much of the cool decor in the venues themselves – tables, light fixtures and more created out of repurposing old items.
The first Grinders Pizza in the Crossroads Art District of Kansas City took its name from 2 of STRETCH’s favorite foods from his East Coast roots in Philadelphia and New York – Grinder sandwiches [like the Philly Cheese steak] and Pizza [NY Style] which are still the Crossroads venue’s top sellers. When Grinders first opened it was one space in the building on the opposite end of the block from STRETCH’s sculpture studio, and instantly became a hit with the arts & music crowd that frequented the area, so expansion into the neighboring bay seemed like a plan – same menu – just a little quieter atmosphere. From there came the idea to start offering live music events in the field that spanned the middle of the block – now home to the annual Crossroads Music Festival and countless other concerts and special events throughout the year.
This evolving vision fit very neatly into the eclectic interests that STRETCH has embraced throughout his life. In his mind, “there is a common thread between art, food, music; they cross all cultural boundaries.” Further, he says that with a pro-active approach to redevelopment you create jobs, build community, and provide safe places for people to gather and share common interests. It was this vision that prompted him to open Grinders, then the music venue, then another Grinders [Stonewall in Lenexa], then another [High Noon in Leavenworth], and most recently adding LFX in Lawrence, KS. His brand of barbecue rubs and hot sauces has a national following and he and his team [“Did I mention,” he says, “none of this happens without a dedicated team of employees.”] are now creating franchising opportunities for other folks who are intrigued by the idea of being part of the wacky roller coaster ride that is restaurant ownership.
It’s a difficult task indeed to profile a man whose life is a kaleidoscope of experiences. This student of life is a trained artist, a successful sculptor, and entrepreneur, a TV star [featured on hit shows like “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”], community developer, world traveler, and humanitarian [with local, national and international charity projects too numerous to mention]. Add to this being a family guy with two great kids – 5 and 1/2 year old twins. Whew! He should be exhausted, but like the Energizer Bunny, he is full of boundless enthusiasm. Despite his hectic schedule STRETCH visits all of the locations quite regularly and if you run into him there is no doubt he’ll have a great story to tell you of his most recent adventures.
We asked him if he had a final word as we wrapped up and started tucking into our lunch, the “Big Ass Triple Smash’d Burger [featured in this newsletter] and he barely hesitated. “Tell them that Grinders Pizza is not ‘fast food.’ We make nearly all our menu items from scratch and preparing good food takes time. So we make good food, fast – not fast food!” And when you combine that with the fun environment, and friendly service you’ve got a winner – that’s for sure! STRETCH also mentioned that folks should be looking for more barbecue [another of his passions and a KC iconic food] to be appearing on all the Grinders menus going forward.
Get details about all the Grinders locations, hours and menus, as well as franchise and job opportunities at https://grinderspizza.com.