Paying tribute to Noel Barnes, the man who designed and built the neon Town Topic sign that has become such an iconic part of downtown Kansas City. Noel was born in 1925 in Kansas City, Missouri and lived here all his life. He was a sign builder and hanger for the former Southwest Boulevard company, Signs, Inc., for more than 30 years. During that time he was also a loyal Town Topic customer, who became friends with Town Topic founder, Claude Sparks. One day Claude asked Noel if he’d design a sign for the restaurant, and the rest is history. Noel passed away in 2010 at the age of 84. We are grateful for his imagination, skill, patronage and friendship. Mike Schwabauer Photography
Aaahhh the good old days – when you could get a Town Topic hamburger for just 10 cents! Here’s TT founder Claude Sparks at the 2021 Broadway location in KCMO in 1945. The restaurant is still there today!
Here’s a 1954 photo of an old Town Topic at 6th and Central in Kansas City, Missouri. It was torn down when the freeway was built. Love the TT awnings and TT/Coca-Cola sign, with Enterprise Wholesale Furniture in the background. Does anybody remember this location?
LOVE this picture. It was given to us a few years back by someone who thought it was Town Topic. It isn’t, but I wish it was! It looks like a professional/staged photo. The KCPL hat on the counter makes me think it’s a Kansas City diner. Anyone know which one?
Claude Sparks in this undated photo at 2021 Broadway….when a day’s pay was just $2.95! Notice the unpainted knotty pine walls and the potato chips instead of French fries. Believe it or not, TT didn’t serve French fries until 1983!
We are often asked, “Why are there 2 Town Topics so close together?” (19th and Baltimore, 20th and Broadway).
There actually used to be SIX Town Topics in downtown Kansas City, opened mainly from the late 1930s-mid 1950s. Claude Sparks located the restaurants next to the downtown streetcar stops. He knew people might want to grab a bite to eat when they got off the street car before going to work, or maybe get some dinner before they went home. The street car stops were close to each other, so the Town Topics were close to each other, too. It was a much different time when most businesses were downtown, and everyone lived and worked close by.
Let us know if you have other questions, and we’ll try to answer them in future posts!