Dining With Denise Neil

‘XO Project’ designers want to express grief, show love for Tandoc and Mallory

Giant red X’s and O’s are posted outside Tanya’s Soup Kitchen and The Donut Whole, two businesses at Douglas and Hydraulic. Their creators want people to sign them with messages of love for the businesses late owners.
Giant red X’s and O’s are posted outside Tanya’s Soup Kitchen and The Donut Whole, two businesses at Douglas and Hydraulic. Their creators want people to sign them with messages of love for the businesses late owners. Tanya’s Soup Kitchen

It’s been a sad few months for the business owners at Douglas and Hydraulic.

First, Tanya’s Soup Kitchen owner Tanya Tandoc, whose business is at 1725 E. Douglas, was killed by her roommate in June. Then, last week, Tandoc’s close friend Angie Mallory, who co-owned the Donut Whole right across the street at 1720 WE. Douglas, also died.

Mutual friends of Tandoc and Mallory – and there are many – were reeling. One decided to funnel her grief into a project, the results of which are now visible on the outside of the businesses. She’s calling it the “XO Project.”

Ann Keefer, who works as the vice president of programming for Wichita Festivals Inc., was a friend to both women. Last week, she said, she was overcome with the feeling that she wanted to show support to the businesses on that corner, to give them a hug from the community.

“We wanted to find a way to let the neighborhood over there know that people were thinking about them,” she said. “And it also honestly was a way for some of us who are feeling the loss to have a way to express our feelings.”

Keefer recruited her co-worker Adam Hartke, who’s the director of events at Wichita Festivals Inc., as well as friend April Johnson. Hartke, a woodworker, constructed several sets of giant X’s and O’s which stand for kisses and hugs, out of wood. Keefer painted them red. The trio also created banners featuring a photo of Tandoc and Mallory together and hung them alongside the X’s and O’s. The banners instruct people to use provided Sharpies to “leave your message of love” on the wood and on the banner.

Johnson approached the business owners for permission to hang the creations outside. She also created coloring pages and distributed them to neighboring businesses, who are inviting people to express their feelings using crayons. The organizers asked the businesses to hang the color pages in their windows as a show of support.

On Friday, the project creators hung the X’s and O’s, along with the banners, on the fences outside of the businesses, facing Douglas.

Keefer said she hopes to leave the signs up for at least a month and hopes both restaurants will move them inside for permanent display.

Kelly Rae Leffel, the chef who has been running Tanya’s Soup Kitchen along with manager Sarah Osborn Bennet since Tandoc’s death, said she loved the idea.

“It means the world to us that we still feel the love and support from our community,” she said.

Also, The Donut Whole owners posted on the businesses’ Facebook page that it will close from 1 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday so staff members can attend a memorial service for Mallory.

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