KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Holiday povitica in Kansas City, Kansas’ Strawberry Hill neighborhood is a tradition almost as old as the city itself.
Marc O’Leary’s great-great grandmother immigrated to KCK from Croatia in 1903, just a few decades after the city was incorporated.
“So the Croatians originally settled in the West Bottoms here in Kansas City, Missouri. Then, there was a great flood that wiped out all the cattle, all the churches, all the houses,” O’Leary said. “So my smart relatives decided, ‘We’re going to find the nearest hill. We don’t want this happening to us again,’ And they found a hill called Strawberry Hill, took all the wild strawberries off of it and rest is history of Kansas City.”
In those early days, Grandma Dorothy baked povitica, which is a Croatian word for rolled or swirled bread, only for people she knew well.
“You had to be a milkman or priest, somebody important, and it was a sign of respect,” O’Leary said. “She would work hard, make the povitica, and then present it to you during the holidays.”
In the mid 1900s, the family moved their povitica business from their home to a commercial space at 5th and Barnett.
“We’d do 30 loaves at a time. We still have our original baking table in our conference room,” O’Leary said.
Today, Strawberry Hill Baking Company operates out of a 30,000 square foot location in Merriam and produces about 6,000 povitica loaves a day.
This Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Strawberry Hill Poviticia is having an open house with a live Croatian band at its Merriam location near I-35 and 75th Street.