If you love dining experiences, eclectic decor, and a good backstory, you might want to keep reading.
Entrepreneur Heather White saw Kansas City’s food + drink scene as a fresh start when she moved here eight years ago. After spending nearly five years as a co-owner at The Russell, Heather found an opportunity to open a new restaurant in Midtown. The rest is history.
What restaurants do you own, and when did they open?
Tailleur (3933 Main St., KCMO) opened in 2021. We got the keys in the middle of the pandemic and took a year to build the space out. Cheval (3940 Main St., KCMO) opened in fall 2022, and Enchanté (3934 Main St., KCMO) opened in January 2023. I have been able to treat every building like it’s truly a blank canvas — lots of character, texture, and layers.
What was your inspiration behind Tailleur?
Before we started our branding, we were coming up with the name. We kept calling it the sister to The Russell, so we were kind of coming up with sister names. Bernadette? No. Scarlet? No. Then we thought, Taylor is a great sister name. It was originally spelled Taylor, but then we saw it spelled in French, and my partner kept saying we have to spell it that way. First of all, no one was going to be able to pronounce it, they still can’t, and second of all, people won’t know how to Google it. Then we were down in the West Bottoms in an antique store, and there was a sign, in blue, from France, in gold lettering, matching our colors that we had already picked, with it spelled Tailleur. It was literally a sign.
How did Cheval come to fruition?
Cheval means horse, and with horses in my background, it was just a natural fit. A horse is not only big in stride, but it has a kind of power behind it, which is what Cheval is. It’s small but mighty, it’s impactful but very mighty.
Here (Tailleur), we never built a bar, and people would show up 30-40 minutes early to their reservation asking to sit at the bar, and we’d have to tell them no. So, when I went to Paris with a girlfriend and we were sitting in a coffee shop, and I said, “I’m going to take over the coffee shop across the street.” Two of my best Tailleur servers sat down with me and told me they wanted to run Cheval, and ever since, they have done everything. They create all of the cocktails from scratch, and now, they have slowly brought on more bartenders and servers. I was sending people down the street, but now I can just send them across it to Cheval.
What about the bakery?
Originally, I was trying to fit the bakery and the bar into Cheval’s building. The bakers had grown out of this space because originally when we had opened Tailleur, I thought that this was going to be a bakery-focused location. We opened for mornings, and it didn’t quite catch. Instead, people naturally came for dinner. So the kitchen was growing, and the menu was growing, meaning the bakers were being squished into a tiny space in the kitchen.
That’s when I thought, bakery by day, bar by night for Cheval. It is only 900 sqft, so putting the bakery and the bar in there would have been six feet closer to the door than it is right now, which would hinder the guest experience. At that moment of thought, as the guys were coming to build the wall in Cheval for the bakery, the owner that managed the space for Enchanté was walking around the corner, and I stopped him to ask if this space was still open. He said “Yeah, absolutely,” and I said, “Can I take it over?” and the second he said yes, I called the construction guys to make sure they didn’t come build the wall. So, the second we finished building out Cheval, we started working on Enchanté and moved the bakers in as soon as we could.
How do you want customers to feel when they experience your businesses?
I want them to feel like they have just been transported, like they are able to step out of their every day life. When I build these spots, I source everything on my own. The only thing in Tailluer that is new are the tables and chairs, but everything else is antique — all the way to the double back doors at the back of the restaurant. I want it to feel very old-war French, like a bakery in Paris.
With Cheval, it’s like, if you are going to go out for a cocktail, you better make it feel like you’re swinging from the chandeliers. It’s very chandelier heavy, a Gatsby kind of feel to it. I mix old and new to give it character and a sense of life.
All of the buildings that I have done have history. All of the pieces are from Kansas City. While I don’t know if they are original, they are all sourced from here. It puts purpose back into the buildings. I want everyone to feel comfortable, like they just stepped into my kitchen or living room and just get to hang out because that’s how it should feel. There’s not a lot of places you can go and feel like that.
What connection do you have to Kansas City? Why Midtown?
I owned and operated a business in Vancouver, CA that I ended up shooting a TV show for three seasons for. But my husband said to me that he wanted to take a new job opportunity. I said “Where is it?” and he said Kansas City, and I said “Where?” He told me to look at a map and pointed right in the center, and I said alright, let’s see what happens. He got the job, and we were on our way here just four weeks later. I moved here and remember doing my homework on what the best restaurants were, which is when I realized that this would be a blank canvas.
What future plans can we expect from you?
Years ago, the original Cheval building was called “Foster Shoes.” We have a permit in Cheval for the downstairs, which is huge down there, and it goes right to the middle of the street. We want to do an underground speakeasy called “Foster Shoes.” If I would have known that before choosing Cheval’s name, I would have named it that, but it was meant to be.
The building next door to Enchanté is a beautiful hall, like an old ballet studio. I am meeting with them soon, and they know how passionate I am about it. The front area of the building used to a door between Enchanté and this building, so I would want to open that back up and put a little wooden door, which I would love to turn it into a tea room with high tea service.