The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association announced today that the "Dining for JJ's" fundraiser it organized on February 23 - where 125 restaurants in the metro donated 10 percent of that night's sales to a fund for staff members of the restaurant destroyed by an explosion on February 19 - raised more than $110,000. The GKCRA says the final figure also includes nearly $13,000 collected from area businesses and personal donations.
A check was presented to JJ's Restaurant co-owner Jimmy Frantze earlier today at the GKCRA board meeting. Fat City caught up with Frantze this afternoon.
Fat City: How are the funds from the different JJ's fundraisers being distributed to the staff?
Frantze: The check was presented to me, but I really have nothing to do with the funds raised. We have set up a trust fund with Country Club Bank for the staff members and established a board of directors to oversee the distribution of the contributions. I am not on that board.
How much was raised at the March 5 benefit at the Uptown Theater?
At least $60,000, I believe. The outpouring of the community for our JJ's family has been incredible.
There were nine JJ's employees in the building when it exploded, including server Megan Cramer, the single fatality. Have the surviving employees recovered physically from the disaster?
Every employee who was in that building sustained some kind of injury. My sous chef, Patrick Woodward, was just released from the hospital two days ago.
Are you going to rebuild JJ's Restaurant?
I get asked that question every day. I honestly don't know. Right now, I just want to get into the building. They haven't really let me into the site. There are people combing through the building with, for lack of a better word, a fine-tooth comb. Looking for clues, for answers. I just want to get in and clean up.
Did any of the legendary JJ's wine collection survive?
Interestingly enough, we did have a wine vault. A real fireproof, waterproof vault - this building was once occupied by Alaskan Furs. There were some surviving bottles that are, amazingly, drinkable. I couldn't sell them, of course. But they did survive.
Has anyone offered you a new or an existing building in order to reopen a new JJ's Restaurant?
At least 14 people so far. But I'm months away from making any decision.
Do you think you'll ever recover from this?
I have contemplated that question for many, many nights since February 19 - on all kinds of levels. I can tell you that I'll never get over the death of Megan Cramer. That was so tragic and such a needless loss of a wonderful life. But the miracle is that any of our employees got out of that building in time. I'm grateful for that. And grateful for the outpouring of support from so many people - restaurant workers, diners, businesses and organizations - for the men and women who worked at JJ's.