Jessica Bloom navigates around construction materials and furnishings inside Border Brewing’s new home in the East Crossroads. She’s used to finding her own path.
Border Brewing Co. owner Eric Martens bought the building (512 E. 18th St.) that now houses the expanded taproom and brewery. Still in development, Border intends to reopen in fall of 2021. The airy urban space is located a few doors away from Border’s original location (now occupied by Red Sash Brewing). Martens and brewer Kelly Wing labor away on woodwork that will become the bar top in the expansive taproom. Bloom heads upstairs to a second-floor space that functions as an AirBnB rental. She sits in a wooden chair dappled in warm sunlight.
Bloom never worked at a brewery before becoming manager at Border Brewing just over four years ago. Several previous jobs honed her service industry skills. She has worked as a bartender at Applebee’s, server at a restaurant buffet in her hometown of Richmond, Missouri, and cook and barista at the former Pi Gallery on E. 18th St. in the East Crossroads. These experiences shaped her approach to serving taproom guests. Bloom says, “I think the most important [lesson learned] is treating every customer who walks in like they’re your best friend coming to see you at work.”
After moving from Richmond to Kansas City in 2006, Bloom and two friends opened an art gallery and music venue dubbed Skinless Productions near Pi Gallery. She grew familiar with the East Crossroads scene during the following five years before pursuing other endeavors. She was initially drawn to Kansas City’s craft beer scene “because of the amount of breweries opening in the Crossroads.” Several years ago, Bloom returned to the Crossroads to see the breweries that had opened in the area where she used to live and work, and how the neighborhood had changed. “Border Brewing was the coziest space,” Bloom says. “I was really impressed with the beer they were making.”
Several months later, she spotted a Facebook post for a job as a patio server. Border had begun construction on a patio at their original location. Bloom applied and interviewed with Martens. “I remember being really nervous,” Bloom says. “Before the interview, I had a beer at Double Shift Brewing next door. My nervousness was for nothing. Eric and I had a long great talk about my past in the neighborhood and his visions for the future of Border. The rest is history. I was hired as a patio server and became a manager a year later.”
Bloom continues to work closely with Martens and Wing as she leads the transformation of raw space in the new building. Her official role as manager doesn’t fully reflect the scope of her work. Standard duties include creating work schedules for employees and conducting inventory. The expanded space led to additional responsibilities. “I primed all of the drywall in the new brewery and taproom. I keep track of where Eric leaves his tape measure,” Bloom says. “Some days I hang out with Kelly while he fixes something so he can have some company. I created this position for myself. My responsibilities change daily depending on what needs to be done. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
When not working, Bloom enjoys savoring an IPA. Bloom says, “Our Shiftie IPA (double IPA) at Border is probably my favorite beer in the world. Anything floral or herbal will win me over in most cases.”
“It was a great experience meeting so many women from Boulevard and being able to educate others in the brewing industry about Pink Boots and what we do.”
Life in the craft beer industry extends beyond the taproom. Bloom and Jenna Munoz, brewer at Fields and Ivy Brewery and former lead packaging operator at KC Bier Company, co-lead the Kansas City Chapter of the Pink Boots Society. Bloom, Munoz, and chapter treasurer Alanis Butler brewed a beer together at Double Shift Brewing on March 8, 2021, during International Women’s Day and Pink Boots Society Collaboration Brew Day. “Following our brew day, Jenna and I were invited to speak about Pink Boots at Boulevard Brewing Company for a company-wide presentation on women in the brewing industry,” Bloom says. “It was a great experience meeting so many women from Boulevard and being able to educate others in the brewing industry about Pink Boots and what we do.”
Especially in the East Crossroads, Kansas City’s craft beer scene and its ardent supporters constitute a tight-knit community. “From my perspective, I am the most proud of the way we support each other and our community,” Bloom observes. “I’m consistently seeing breweries fundraising for charities that directly impact our neighborhood. It’s motivating and hopeful.”
Border Brewing regularly allies with other breweries, distilleries and KC Wineworks in the East Crossroads. “We are so supportive of each other. It’s honestly really reminiscent of the way the Crossroads was when I first lived and worked there in 2006,” Bloom says. “It’s very tightly knit but inclusive. We regularly visit each other’s taprooms as customers. Everyone is always more than ready to lend a helping hand however they can. I truly love my neighbors.”
Remodeling, and buildout at Border’s spacious site over the past year slowly nears completion. The move has been, well, moving. Bloom says, “It’s been a very emotional transition for me. The best analogy I’ve been able to come up with is that it’s been like leaving my childhood home.”
Parting with the former space in April 2021 was difficult but created a fresh opportunity to look forward. “Eric, Kelly, and I have been working so hard on the new brewery and taproom together,” Bloom says. “I’m lucky to work with such wonderful men. It’s both challenging and exciting to help design and build a new, bigger taproom. We’re still striving to retain the cozy feel that initially made me fall in love with Border.”
Pete Dulin is the founder and editor of kcaletrail.com. His most recent book is Expedition of Thirst: Exploring Breweries, Distilleries and Wineries Across Central Kansas and Missouri. Pete’s other books include Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland, KC Ale Trail (out of print), and Last Bite: 100 Simple Recipes from Kansas City’s Best Chefs and Cooks.