Celebrating 25 years in Wichita

The success and family behind Mort’s Martini and Cigar Bar

Written by Julie Underwood Burton

Twenty-five years ago, when brothers Morrie and Matt Sheets met for a martini in a small Kansas City bar, they were convinced Wichita needed a new place where friends could simply meet, enjoy a good drink and listen to great music.

Morrie shared that vision and partnered with lifelong Wichita friend Matt Carney, and Mort’s Martini and Cigar Bar soon opened in 1996. Located at First Street and Washington, Mort’s became a cornerstone for Wichita’s new Old Town development. The original building was actually a corner gas station owned by the Sheets brother’s grandfather. When you step inside today, you will see Grandfather Sheet’s picture hanging on the wall alongside picture frames of friends, celebrities and all of Mort’s “Best of Wichita” awards.

Matt Carney and Morrie owned the bar until 2001 when they both decided to leave the bar business. After owner Frank Whitmer passed in 2011, Morrie and his brother Matt jumped on the opportunity to be in business together. They bought Mort’s back, updated furnishings and created a year-round enclosed, temperature-controlled patio venue prior to reopening.

Mort’s is undoubtedly famous for its impressive martini list of 160 martini types along with their full bar, rotating tap beer selection with Wichita microbrews, and free popcorn. Patrons are also appreciative of the quality cigar selection. Live music plays on the award-winning “Best Patio” seven days a week and rarely is a seat left empty and tables are always to be shared.

Staff turnover at Mort’s is practically non-existent as the Sheets brothers always worked hard to create a “family affair” atmosphere for patrons and staff. Likely the most familiar face is that of Emma Russell, who has worked at Mort’s almost the entire 25 years. Starting at the age of 18 as a server, with a keen business sense and people skills, she was quickly promoted to general manager and later became an operating partner when the business was bought back by Morrie and Matt. Morrie is adamant that Mort’s would not be what it is today without Emma and the servers she has trained.

“The best thing we do here is service. Our tremendous staff will see you coming, knows where you will be sitting and will have your drink waiting for you. Over 90 percent of our regulars don’t even have to place their order,” exclaims Morrie.

Ask anyone at Mort’s. It is a well-known fact that customers often have their drink waiting for them at their favorite table, before they can even get inside the door.

Sadly, Morrie lost his brother Matt in September 2019, yet Matt’s wife Sharon remains an active partner who is committed to overseeing the business in the manner her husband did. “I come in each morning, just like he did and make sure everything is clean. And I place the chalkboard announcing daily specials outside, just like Mattie did”. A mural painted by PAINTology’s local artist team, Michael and Rachel Downs, will soon don the building’s outside south wall. In Matt’s honor, part of the drawing includes his chalkboard, plus the mural will depict the many things Mort’s Cigar and Martini Bar is known for including their martinis, music and cigars.

In the bar industry, the longevity of Mort’s is unprecedented and is to be celebrated. On June 26 and 27, Mort’s will host a 25-Year Anniversary Party with live music, a photo booth, food, fun and festivities. And of course, great drinks and popcorn will be served. Everyone is invited!

Mort’s Martini and Cigar Bar
923 E. First Street N.
Wichita, KS 67202

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