Rural By Choice
Schenker Family Farms and McCune Farm to Market invest in SEK – while serving customers around the world
It was 2008. Cherie Schenker logged on to Craigslist, a relatively new website at the time, to advertise a quarter of Schenker Family Farms’ grass-fed beef to local consumers.
It didn’t work.
“Somehow, it ended up going on the Craigslist in Orange County, California,” she says with a laugh. “But then – someone called.”
And someone else called. Then someone else. Quickly, Cherie and her husband, Kevin, realized: There’s a huge market for this.
“We needed a website and we needed to figure out how to ship this stuff,” Cherie says. “Necessity is the mother of invention … and we just kind of got propelled into it from there.”
Where they’ve landed 10 years later is one of the largest direct-marketing livestock operations in the state … Read More »
History on Route 66
Old Riverton Store a fixture of SEK – and Route 66 – since 1925
On the small, 13.2-mile stretch of Route 66 that calls Kansas home, there’s a business that’s been operating since 1925 – one year before the Mother Road was even established.
Old Riverton Store might very well be the oldest continuously operating business on Route 66. To the hundreds of overseas tourists – from China, Australia, Italy, you name it – who visit it each year, the store is a must-stop for Route 66 history and nostalgia. For Riverton folks, it’s simply a staple of everyday life.
“I can’t imagine there’s another business like this on Route 66 that was around in 1925,” says Scott Nelson, who took over Old Riverton Store in 2010. “It’s just always been here…”
Want to keep reading about Old Riverton Store? Check … Read More »
World-Class Boats Built in Small-Town Kansas
Cobalt Boats in Neodesha celebrates nearly 50 years in the marine industry
When it came time for Casey Lair to buy a boat, the choice was clear.
In fact, he says, there really wasn’t much of a choice to be made at all.
“We had bought a lake house at Table Rock, and I just assumed that if I was going to have a boat, Cobalt is supposed to be the best boat made – and it’s made in Neodesha,” says Casey, who’s lived and worked in Neodesha for 32 years. “So that’s what I needed to have.”
Seven years and two boats later, Casey is a Cobalt Boats devotee. And he’s in good company: Tens of thousands of people across the country (and the world, for that matter) own a Cobalt luxury boat, all of which are built … Read More »
Iola attracts multiple candy companies over the years, including Sifers Valomilk
Next time you spot Valomilk, that vintage chocolate-coated treat with a runny marshmallow center, make sure you thank Iola.
Valomilk’s creator, Sifers Candy Company, originated in Iola and was based there for several decades before moving its entire operation to Kansas City. It is one of a handful of candy manufacturers that have called Iola home since the late 1800s – including one of the country’s four Russell Stover factories, which is still based there today.
“You know candy was profitable here when three different men came to town before Sifers and all made big, big money from it,” says Donna Houser, volunteer with the Allen County Historical Society…
Want to keep reading about Iola’s candy history? Check out the winter issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out now! It includes this story … Read More »
Made by Hand
Elk Falls Pottery celebrates 40 years of craftsmanship
It was in college that Steve and Jane Fry fell in love with pottery – and with each other. They haven’t looked back since.
This year, the Frys celebrate 40 years of running their family business, Elk Falls Pottery, a huge attraction in tiny Elk Falls. (They’re also celebrating 42 years of marriage.) While many of their peers consider retirement, Steve and Jane are staying as busy as ever: Just a few months ago, in fact, they moved Elk Falls Pottery to a new, larger, more scenic (and historic) location at the corner of Hwy. 160 and Seventh Street.
“People my age are thinking about retiring and finally doing what they really want to do,” says Steve, who just turned 64. “Well, I’m already doing what I really want to do. And I’ll … Read More »
ChaGlaz Designs in Glass wows with one-of-a-kind glasswork
Keith Wilson examines three handmade marbles in his Parsons garage-turned-art studio, twirling them in his hand as their colors and sparkly dichroic glass catch the light.
“These are absolutely one of a kind,” he says. “I’ll never be able to replicate them; I can’t even tell you how I got the design. These three – they’re never for sale.”
They’re the kinds of rare pieces you get when you’re in the studio as much as Keith and his wife, Charlean, are. The retired husband-and-wife duo run ChaGlaz Designs in Glass in Parsons, a hobby-based business that practices all five disciplines of a full glass studio: warm glass, hot glass, torch work, cold work and recycled glass.
“We are probably the only studio of our kind in Southeast Kansas,” Keith says…
Want to keep reading about ChaGlaz … Read More »
Vogel Family Vineyards
Vines flourish on Galena family’s land
Ten years ago, Steve and Sheryll Vogel took a trip to Napa Valley.
Like millions of wine enthusiasts, they were impressed with the beautiful northern California landscape. Unlike many of those other visitors, however, they decided to try to replicate what they saw back at home – in Southeast Kansas.
“We went out to Napa and thought, ‘That’d be pretty on our hill,’” Steve says. “We thought we’d grow some grapes and that it wouldn’t be much trouble. It was a lot of trouble! But we decided to take a chance.”
The trouble was well worth it. Today, Steve, Sheryll and their son Phillip run Vogel Family Vineyards on 6.5 acres south of their hometown of Galena. As you turn the corner toward their home and vineyard, a sign proclaims that you’re in “Wine Country” now … Read More »
Larry Brockway’s Hall of Fame Studio is a hit in Neodesha
Rodney Lay likes to say that Larry Brockway has big ears.
Just not in the way you’re thinking.
“He can just hear what sounds right,” says Lay, of “Hee Haw” and Rodney & the Blazers fame. “I’ve recorded with some of the best in the business, and this guy is right there with them. I tell you what, Larry is really, really a fine engineer and record producer.”
And Brockway’s equally lauded Hall of Fame Studio is based right here in Southeast Kansas. Not Nashville or New York – but Neodesha.
“He’s just a phenomenon for this part of the country,” Lay says. “When you think about all the people he’s brought to the state, he’s been a well-kept secret for all these years – a great treasure for Southeast Kansas.”
Musicians for Merle … Read More »
Arnold’s Greenhouse flourishes in LeRoy for more than 35 years
Know your grower, Rita Arnold likes to say.
At Arnold’s Greenhouse in LeRoy, that’s easy to do.
Despite its 70,000 square feet of greenhouses and retail space, all housing nearly 3,500 varieties of plants, Arnold’s isn’t your typical big-box operation. Rita and her husband, George, pride themselves on offering big-time quality and variety paired with small-town, independent values.
“We try to set ourselves apart as locally grown, so the consumer can have confidence,” Rita says. “And unlike other garden centers, we let the consumer go into each of our greenhouses. Because of that, we have the largest shopping area in the state.”
That scale, however, is just one element of what sets Arnold’s apart from the rest. Just ask George and Rita’s longtime customers.
“I love the selection of plants that they have. Every year … Read More »
Thousands of copper cookie cutters are sold at CopperGifts.com. Every single one of them is made right here in Southeast Kansas.
Flip on Food Network reruns, and you just might see the faces of Southeast Kansas locals Raymond and Beth Braman.
The Parsons-based Bramans have been featured on the network – twice, in fact – for their distinctive, handmade copper cookie cutters, sold on CopperGifts.com in thousands of different shapes.
“They filmed an episode of ‘Unwrapped’ here in around 2005, and a couple of years later they came for a Christmas special,” Beth says. “It was the last day of August and about 104 outside, and we’re all wearing Christmas sweaters with the house decorated for Christmas.”
The hard work – and sweat – paid off.
“I remember the big rush after the first show aired. It was just unbelievable,” she says. “We couldn’t … Read More »