Gomer’s, a unique Kansas City brand, has evolved over decades.
Anyone who travels to Kansas City is likely familiar with Gomer’s Fine Wine and Spirits, which has long been a core component of the area’s liquor industry. But many would be surprised to know the history behind this iconic chain, which didn’t begin as a liquor store at all.
Family Business, Redefined
Gomer’s has been a valued part of the Kansas City community for almost 50 years. It was the brainchild of Ed “Gomer” Moody, who originally opened a Gomer’s gas station at the corner of 99th St. and Holmes Rd. in 1969. Several years later, when the U.S. dealt with a gasoline shortage as a result of the oil embargo, Moody decided to begin selling items like milk and bread, and to apply for a liquor license in order to have an additional revenue stream in place. The resulting convenience store was extremely popular with customers and it became the cornerstone of the business, eventually evolving into the liquor store chain it is today.
It wasn’t until the early 1990s that Moody decided to explore franchising options. Around the same time, Jack Probst was working part-time for another neighborhood store and wanted to become more involved in wine and spirit retail operations. He franchised the Gomer’s Stateline store, and 15 years later was joined by his brother, Jim, who had previously worked in the wholesale industry for 30 years. Together, they franchised the Gomer’s Midtown location.
When Moody eventually retired, the Probsts became owners of both the Midtown and Stateline stores in Kansas City. The three other Missouri stores are all independently owned, although the Probsts own Gomer’s brand rights within the state. One additional Gomer’s location exists on the Kansas side of the city, which has been independently owned by Steve McLeroy for the past 18 years. This unique setup gives each owner the freedom to make many decisions on their own, but also requires a great deal of collaboration to maintain the integrity of the unified Gomer’s brand.
“We all get along really well,” says McLeroy, who grew up working for the business. “Each of us comes from a different background and brings a different set of skills and experiences to the table. We all have different perspectives on things, which is good. Most importantly, we all have common sense, which is key to running a good business.”
As the son of one of Moody’s business partners, McLeroy was introduced to Gomer’s at a very young age. He swept the store floors when he was 12 years old, and also spent some time working for Gomer’s Chicken, a side business of Moody’s that operated for 34 years. McLeroy worked at the store in various capacities growing up, and assisted his father during the summers when he was home from college. After graduation, he returned to the store to serve as a night manager and stuck with it. McLeroy continued moving up the ranks, impressing both his father and Moody, who eventually offered McLeroy his own Gomer’s location on the Kansas side of the city. He’s been there ever since.