We are glad that you have discovered Emporia. The Emporia Chamber of Commerce & Visit Emporia have worked hard to put together this complete Community Guide as a resource to visitors and future Emporians alike. Emporia has been described as “the loveliest site in the world for a town.” It is situated between two rivers and on the front porch of the Flint Hills. Emporia is centrally located on Interstate 35 between Wichita and Kansas City and is a place with access to abundant wildflowers, unobstructed views, and unparalleled people.
As the Founding City of Veterans Day, Emporia is a place that honors and remembers those who have fought and sacrificed so that we can enjoy our freedoms. It is a place that recognizes educators through the National Teachers Hall of Fame and the National Memorial to Fallen Educators. We are passionate about the things we love and that shows in our innovation and creativity. We have vibrant music festivals, world class disc golf tournaments, and cultural celebrations. We are a place for exploration, whether that be on the seat of a bicycle or with the top off in the Jeep.
While the pages that follow will give you a great look into life in Emporia, our town is a place best experienced in person. Come for a weekend and you might just stay for life. Emporia has a way of captivating free spirits. Please visit emporiaopportunities.com and visitemporia.com for more information, or feel free to connect with us on social media.
The Emporia Chamber of Commerce & Visit Emporia Teams
719 Commercial St, Emporia, Kansas emporiakschamber.org | visitemporia.com
PUBLICATION CREDITS EDITORS
Jeanine McKenna, President/CEO, Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce
LeLan Dains, Director, Visit Emporia CREATIVE
Tracy Weltha & Shawn Honea, IM Design Group
Kelly Mayer, Visit Emporia
Shawn Honea, IM Design Group
Ryne Seals & Kaila Williams-Seals, Varigated Productions
Chris Walker, The Emporia Gazette
Above: Staff having fun in Visit Emporia bike chariots at the Veterans Day Parade. On the cover: Exploring the Flint Hills by Jeep. See page 26 for our favorite routes.
Disclaimer: The Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce, a Not for Profit 501 (c)(6) association, and Visit Emporia, a tax supported government entity, provides this information as a service for Emporia. We have made every effort to make sure that the information is accurate and current. However, we cannot and do not warrant that the information furnished to us is correct nor completely without errors. No part of the publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including a photocopy, recording, or any information retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Emporia.
wake up on the bright side®
Slices of Heaven
at Vault Meats & Cheeses
Becky Mishler, owner and operator of Vault Meats & Cheeses, strides through the door of Mulready’s Pub with a platter of fresh olive sourdough bread, an assortment of fruit and, of course, cheese. Fromager d’affinois with truffle, a double-cream cow’s milk French cheese with Italian truffles, to be exact. “I’m trying it out for the store,” she says, smiling. “This is work.”
your guide up the cheese mountain.
We are barely ten minutes into our interview before the cheese and nibbles start to draw people to our table, curious and eager for a taste.
Mishler generously welcomes them and offers each a taste.
One man takes a bite, and his eyes roll back in his head. He chews slowly. “Oh! That’s like butter. It’s so...rich.”
Another person shows up at the table, takes the offered slice of cheese on apple and proclaims, “Life is good.”
Good cheese has a magic to it. It seems to pull people out of their thoughts and worries, like a pause button for a busy mind. It isn’t just food; it is an experience.
Mishler delights in sharing it with others.
“The unifying part about food is everybody eats. Everybody has their strong opinions, and nobody is wrong. That’s why the kitchen, or a cheese plate, gathers a crowd,” says Mishler.
Vault Meats & Cheeses has everything you need to draw your own
crowd. The shop at 509 Commercial Street boasts a wide variety of cheeses, charcuterie and frozen locally sourced meats, fresh-baked bread, plus an assortment of nuts, olives, pickled vegetables, crackers, spreads and more.
Mishler knows not everyone has a broad knowledge of cheese and charcuterie, but that shouldn’t dissuade anyone from dropping in to shop. “I think for a lot of people, the intimidation factor makes it seem high stress coming into a place like Vault. But nothing is intimidating in my store. We are just going to talk about food, and I’m going to give you a little piece to taste. I’m going to help you find the thing you think is yum. I’m your guide up the cheese mountain,” she says.
It is evident she loves helping people zero in and find the flavors they’ll love. She’s always eager to suggest what pairings work best, be it fruits, meats, wines or bread.
The bread is another unique part of what Vault has to offer. All the bread is made in-house by baker Chad DeCrow, also known as Chad the Breadman. He keeps the shop regularly stocked with sourdough, honey whole wheat, traditional baguette, white bread, French bread and garlic and olive oil crostini.
But he also bakes weekly specials. Some are beloved customer favorites he rotates in and out, like cheddar jalapeno, focaccia and ‘Everything But The Bagel’ sourdough, to name a few. During the holidays, he bakes classics like stollen and hot cross buns. Other specials are new creations, often influenced by the season and locally available ingredients.
He enjoys the creativity bread allows. “One of my favorites is the Greek sourdough, which, of course, has feta cheese, sundried tomatoes, capers, olives, garlic and oregano. I mean, just how great is that!” says DeCrow. “It’s Greek salad minus the lettuce.”
“I love making bread. I believe that is why my bread is so delicious,” says DeCrow.
Mishler and DeCrow elevate food beyond mere sustenance. For anyone who loves food, the offerings at Vault Meats & Cheeses will inspire, delight and satisfy your food curious soul.
FAMILY TRADITIONS served fresh at chi em EATS
I wanted to open up people's palates to the different flavors.-Mai Fields, owner, chi em EATS
Spring rolls that are cool and refreshing, with the delightful crunchiness of fresh lettuce, cilantro and cucumber.
Crispy chicken wings drenched in a delectable lemongrass sauce, paired with the gentle sweetness of lightly pickled red onion, carrot, cucumber and jalapeno, if you want to raise the heat.
Oversized bowls of steaming Phở — a noodle soup — are savory and brothy with the added citrusy brightness of a generous squeeze of fresh lime.
These are just a few of the culinary pleasures that await you at chi em EATS, at 11 East 6th Avenue in the heart of downtown Emporia.
In Vietnamese, chi em means sisters. In Emporia, chi em EATS means delicious and delightful Vietnamese dining, the dream of three sisters made real.
At the helm of chi em EATS is Mai Fields. Her two sisters and business partners support the efforts from afar. Nguyet Pham lives in Oklahoma City and runs the test kitchen, honing recipes for the restaurant. Trinh Vu lives in Los Angeles and notably lent her aesthetic talents to the modern minimalist design of the restaurant.
When they first opened in 2019, the trio's goal was to bring the foods they grew up with, in their Vietnamese community in New Orleans, to a place where customers might not have had a chance to enjoy them. "I wanted to open up people's palates to the different flavors. A lot of people are afraid of Vietnamese food because they don't know it or know what to expect…Some people think it is the same as Chinese food, and there are some overlaps, but Vietnamese food is unique," said Fields.
It's true. The food at chi em EATS is a mixture of familiar flavors and new experiences. The dishes are complex and multilayered, accented by notes of ginger, garlic and lemongrass. It isn't automatically spicy, although sriracha or red chili paste can be added to each person's taste.
Many menu items are not overly heavy. There are lots of options for the more healthconscious diner, as well as vegetarian and vegan options.
But if you are the sort that hears those words and thinks, that's not my cup of tea, think again. Because all the entree menu items are made with your choice of protein — beef, pork, chicken or tofu — devoted carnivores and vegans alike can have many menu items just the way they like it.
Weekly specials are where Fields lets her cooks explore. On any given week, you could try traditional curries and delectable fusions like kimchi grilled cheese with tomato soup and Phở burgers. Desserts tread the line between familiar and unusual ingredients with offerings like hibiscus lime ice cream and pineapple guava cupcakes.
Mai and her sisters have more exciting avenues for the business in the works. They value partnering with and giving back to the community that supports them. One way they are approaching this is through local sourcing of ingredients. "We are collaborating with small farmers to supply us with local produce to help support sustainability and no-till farming. We hope to collaborate more with local ranchers in the future to supply us with grass-fed meats as well," said Fields.
chi em EATS is open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday, from 11:00 am to 2:30 pm, and dinner Thursday through Saturday, from 5:00 to 9:00 pm. The next time you are in Emporia, stop in and let your taste buds explore.Trihn Vu Mai Fields
There’s plenty to love about Emporia’s food scene. With a diverse population, our locals cook up authentic cuisine from a range of cultures to tantalize your taste buds.
UNION STREET SOCIAL (225 E 6th Ave) is described as half speakeasy and half grandma’s basement. This eclectic new eatery features upscale cocktails and hip American bistro cuisine. Immerse yourself in Emporia’s Latino culture at CASA RAMOS (707 Commercial St) with authentic Mexican dishes and a full bar. For craft beer, brick oven pizza and more, a visit to RADIUS BREWING CO. (610 Merchant St) will surely satisfy. Dine under a whimsical indoor cherry blossom tree at HAGAYA RAMEN SHOP (1111 Commercial St). Slurp down a noodle bowl with your choice of Japanese broths, or try one of their flavorful sushi rolls. If you’re in the mood for BBQ, look no further than award-winning BOBBY D’S (607 Merchant St). Visitors come from all around to try their famous smoked meats.
The Granada District
Grab a sweet treat and a coffee next to the beautiful Granada Theatre in downtown Emporia. THE SWEET GRANADA (803 Commercial St) gourmet chocolate shop uses premium ingredients to make fudge, truffles and candies daily. GRANADA COFFEE COMPANY (809 Commercial St), has been voted the best coffee in the Flint Hills for 18 straight years. Snuggle up in an oversized chair and enjoy the local vibe in this unique shop.
Everyone loves a food truck! In between traveling, many trucks here in Emporia are planting roots to create hybrid dining opportunities that shouldn’t be missed. THE DAILY STATION (312 W South Ave) offers authentic Mexican and El Salvadoran cuisine. The atmosphere at night on a beautiful evening is magical! Experience the fusion of American and Mediterranean cuisine at GUSTOSO (1520 W 6th Ave). Fresh ingredients, weekly specials, and a comfortable environment makes this one a must. For something a little farther from the fields, visit MIZUMI’S HIBACHI AND SUSHI (804 W 6th Ave). The newest addition to our exquisite food truck scene offers a taste of the sea right here in Kansas! Be sure to try fan favorite sushi rolls such as the Mizumi Roll and the Emporia Roll. If sushi isn’t your thing, try one of their hot grilled hibachi entrees.
MULREADY’S PUB (717 Commercial St) serves 23 beers on tap, 70+ bottles of beer, and over 140 combined bourbons, scotches, and whiskies from around the world. Craft beer fans will feel right at home in Mulready’s. The pub also features an outdoor patio and rotating displays from local artists. Right down the street is BOURBON COWBOY (605 Commercial St). This 6,000 square foot, two-level country dance bar and pool hall is a hit amongst visitors and locals alike. THE STATION (402 Merchant St) is a fun stop for nightly drink specials, bar food menu, and a variety of games. The Station also features a large patio and private event spaces for parties. Tap into your inner lumberjack at MAIN STREET AXE COMPANY. Enjoy a cold beer while competing in some good-old fashioned axe throwing. On the northwest side of town near Emporia’s hotel zone, BRUFF’S BAR & GRILL is the place to be. With a full food menu, pool tables, darts, and bar, Bruff’s is the perfect place to end the night before hitting the hay at your hotel.
Don’t miss TROLLEY HOUSE DISTILLERY (502 S Commercial St), one of only 6 microdistilleries in the state. Their tasting room is the perfect place to sip some ’shine or offerings from their full bar including seasonal cocktails. And of course, pick up a bottle of hand-crafted spirits to take home.
Two businesses pair up to FEED THE
Painted on the façade of 715 Commercial Street are the words Coffee, Art, Gifts. The space inside contains not one but two cherished local businesses — TROX GALLERY AND GIFTS and GRAVEL CITY ROASTERS. These two businesses used to operate separately in different locations. But through a series of serendipitous events, the two have come together in a shared space. The result is an eclectic sanctuary with a friendly and welcoming vibe, where you can find all you desire.
It was the realization of a dream for the two owners and close friends, Kaila Mock, owner and operator of Trox Gallery and Gifts, and Angie Baker, owner and operator of Gravel City Roasters.
“In the very beginning, when I first had the tiny seed of the idea for Trox, I talked to Angie about it, and I was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could have an art gallery and coffee shop together?’ But at the time, it was just a huge pipe dream,” said Mock.
It took time, but the stars aligned in the fall of 2021, and the two businesses opened together. The pairing has been a roaring success since day one.
Together, they’ve created a space that is a feast for the senses. The moment you cross the threshold, you encounter art. Paintings adorn the walls. As you make your way through, you pass everything from ceramics, jewelry and hand-blown glass pieces to art supplies, books, candles, puzzles and more. Trox carries items from 100 local artists. It is the perfect place to purchase a thoughtful and unique gift — for others and yourself.
Venture farther in, and you encounter gentle sunlight shining down from the skylight onto lush green plants and plentiful seating. Everywhere is art for the eyes to devour while you sink into a comfy chair or browse Trox’s wares, sipping on your coffee, tea or one of the many other drinks on offer.
If you have an appetite, Gravel City has just the thing, no matter what you are craving. Snack on Renegade Cupcakes, Forkluvsspoon cheesecakes, Chad the Breadman’s ham and Swiss, pizza or cinnamon rolls and sometimes out-of-theordinary specials like lemon lavender rolls. Plus, freshly made Gravel City salads.
The atmosphere is inviting and relaxing, in no small part because of the people. “I think the friendliness of our staff is what makes our business successful,” said Baker.-Kaila Mock and Angie Baker
In addition to providing a marketplace for art in Emporia, Mock has been fundamental in creating EMPORIA FIRST FRIDAY, one of the most successful events drawing people to explore downtown. The monthly art walk is the creation of Mock and her partner, Joel Smith. A bonus of the 715 Commercial Street location is that Emporia First Friday is now headquartered upstairs.
Together, Mock and Baker have created the perfect place to escape the ordinary and indulge the senses. Filled with hidden gems you won’t find elsewhere, spanning the gamut from visual to culinary artistry, you don’t want to miss experiencing it for yourself.
Wouldn’t it be cool if we could have an art gallery and coffee shop together?
Commercial Street in Downtown Emporia is a favorite place to stroll and shop. With an eclectic mix of stores, food, drink, and historic architecture, Commercial Street’s atmosphere is one-of-a-kind.
Gifts & Home Decor
Head to THE DUSTY TRAIL GIFT SHOPPE (1107B Commercial St), to find quirky items with an attitude, including Kansas/ Midwest gifts, vintage decor, T-shirts, candles, and jewelry. JACK’S LAWN & POOL (829 Commercial St), is more than just outdoor toys. You’ll find an entire room of home décor, clothing, signs, metal art, BBQ and fire pit necessities, pellet grills, local honey and, of course, pool supplies.
Antiques & Crafts
Age matters at POEHLER MERCANTILE ANTIQUE MALL (301 Commercial St). You’ll find a collection of true antiques, including depression glass, Victorian and oak furniture, jewelry, art, books, clothing, and much more in this 14,000 square-foot store. Poehler is owned by legendary Emporia State University basketball coach, Ron Slaymaker. Check out the ESU sports museum inside and say hello to Coach! The largest selection of beads in the Midwest can be found at PLUM BAZAAR (615 Commercial St). Plum Bazaar is an eclectic mix of beads, rocks, hand-crafted jewelry, supplies, gifts and an in-store boutique. Plumtique includes one-of-a-kind hand-sewn clothing, bohemian skirts, wraps, leather purses and antiques.
Freshen Up Your Style
A quirky mix of new, custom and crafty is the best way to describe the clothing, footwear, accessories, purses and more that you will find at SHELBYS’ SASSY DESIGNS (1115 Commercial St). Owners Shelby & Shelby can put together an entire outfit for your special occasion or take a custom order for matching T-shirts for the family. K.C. Chiefs fan? Get your hand-crafted Chiefs shirts here as well! Life’s special moments require the best in fashion. KARI’S BRIDAL (1015 Industrial) offers a wide selection of tuxedos, bridesmaid dresses, and an extensive line of prom dresses and women’s formal wear. Take a ride on the wild side at COOKIES LEATHER AND APPAREL (317 Commercial St). Cookies is the place to find motorcycling apparel, including leather jackets, vests and chaps. They also carry a variety of jeans, T-shirts and accessories.
Located one block west of Commercial Street, you’ll find unique vintage western fashions at PRAIRIE & PEARLS (628 Merchant St, Suite 4). The store carries a variety of merchandise for women as well as vests, all weather jackets, shirts, rain slickers, wild rags and belts for men. Have you ever wondered what 8,000 pairs of jeans looks like? Take a 5 minute drive from Downtown and find out at BLUESTEM FARM & RANCH SUPPLY (2611 W US Hwy 50). An Emporia Legend, this familyowned general store has been a visitor destination for over 60 years, selling a large variety of items for the farm and home.
THE BEAT GOES ON
Emporians are passionate about the things we love, and it shows in our grassroots music & arts scene. Dedicated community members created a film fest, music and arts fest, and monthly downtown art walk – all free and open to the public.
Emporia is home to the HALFWAY TO EVERYWHERE MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL (annually the Saturday before Labor Day). Organized by Kansas Free For Arts volunteers, the day is packed full of live music on multiple stages. In addition, browse art vendor booths and visit a variety of food trucks. Performing four to five concerts a year, the EMPORIA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA makes it easy to find time in any busy schedule to relax and listen to the best local musicians that Emporia has to offer. The EMPORIA MUNICIPAL BAND performs on select Thursdays in the summer months filling Fremont Park with traditional sounds for everyone in the family to enjoy. The DEPARTMENT OF MUSIC AT ESU hosts concerts and recitals throughout the year. Visit emporia.edu/music for upcoming shows and tickets. One of the best places to catch live music yearround is the historic GRANADA THEATRE (807 Commercial St). This 1929 Emporia gem has been fully restored to its original eye-dazzling opulence! Visit emporiagranada.com for showtimes and tickets. The theater is also available for weddings, parties, and meetings.
The art scene is growing in Emporia and that is reflected in the public art initiatives you will see around town, such as the new mural at Las Casitas Park (pictured at right). Scan the QR code for a complete list of art displays around town.
Arts Events & Galleries
On the first Friday of every month, enjoy a lively atmosphere while strolling downtown at the EMPORIA FIRST FRIDAY ART WALK (emporiafirstfriday.com). This free event showcases local artists and musicians at various downtown venues. THE EMPORIA ARTS CENTER (815 Commercial St) houses a gallery of rotating art exhibits and an art gift shop, as well as classes in pottery, painting, kids crafts and much more. The Arts Center also sponsors a performing arts series which brings theater and musical acts to Emporia. Visit emporiaksarts.org for upcoming shows and tickets. At TROX GALLERY AND GIFTS (715 Commercial) you will find an array of unique, funky, and hand-crafted art pieces. Trox also features gallery showings of area artists that rotate each month. The ESU ART DEPARTMENT (1301 Market St) houses the Norman R. Eppink and Gilson Memorial Galleries in King Hall. The galleries feature 12-15 exhibitions each year and are free and open to the public during school hours.
Film & Theatre
For film lovers, NO COAST FILM FEST (nocoastfilmfest.com) celebrates the short film genre. Watch an array of award-winning, moving, funny, dramatic and animated shorts from both the international film circuit as well as discoveries from first-time filmmakers.
EMPORIA STATE UNIVERSITY THEATRE is one of the oldest programs in the country, producing theater since 1913. Five performances are held each season. Visit emporia.edu/ theatre for upcoming shows and tickets.
OUR NATURAL WONDER
Voted one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas, the Flint Hills are a special, magical place. The region is one the last remaining tallgrass prairie ecosystems in the world, with rolling vistas that have endured largely unchanged for thousands of years.
Traveling over the hills and valleys on a quiet country roadway in the Flint Hills will challenge your idea that Kansas is flat. After the annual pasture burnings in springtime, the hills are renewed, bringing forth sweeping carpets of native grasses and wildflowers. With a population of less than 12.7 people per square mile, your only company may be the hawks, songbirds, deer, and coyotes commonly spotted throughout the region. Evenings in the Flint Hills often put on a show of breathtaking sunsets and brilliant stars, perfect for gazing in quiet stillness. The Flint Hills are truly one of America’s unique places, harboring a wealth of adventure, beauty, and history. The area is best experienced up close by bike, jeep, car, kayak, or on foot. Emporia is the perfect place to begin and end your daily adventures.
At one time, there were over 150 million acres of tallgrass prairie that stretched from Texas to Canada. Today only 4% remains, with much of it at TALLGRASS PRAIRIE NATIONAL PRESERVE. Hike the trails spanning nearly 11,000 acres of wide open spaces and beautiful vistas. The preserve includes a bison herd, one-room schoolhouse, historic limestone buildings, and visitors center. Bring your camera and capture the 150 species of birds, 35 species of reptiles and amphibians, 35 species of mammals, 400 species of wildflowers, and 70 species of native grasses as you hike.
The FLINT HILLS TRAIL STATE PARK is a 94-mile multi-use trail through the heart of the Flint Hills. It stretches between Osawatomie and Council Grove and is the longest trail in Kansas. Trail heads closest to Emporia include Admire, Allen, Bushong, and Council Grove.
Running from Council Grove to Cassoday, the FLINT HILLS SCENIC BYWAY offers incredible views of the native grasses and flowers of the tallgrass prairie. Much of the land along the Byway looks as it did thousands of years ago when the Kaw, Osage and other native tribes lived there. If you dig history or photography, or just need a good cruise in the country, our HISTORIC BRIDGE TOUR of Lyon County is a must!
The Flint Hills region also provides excellent FISHING AND BOATING opportunities. Anglers can check out reservoirs such as Council Grove, Melvern, John Redman, and Pomona or choose the smaller county fishing lakes in Lyon, Chase, and Osage counties. The most common fish caught in this area are bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill, trout and walleye. Kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding are a great way to enjoy area lakes. Find permit information and more about where to fish at ksoutdoors.com.
Take the Visit Emporia Pledge
This area is rooted in cultural diversity, and we are proud to share with others the many reasons we love to call this place home. We certainly hope you will be good stewards of our community and environment during your time here with us. Please join us in taking the Visit Emporia pledge to show your commitment to having a wonderful experience in Emporia and the Flint Hills. Scan the code to take the pledge now and get a digital badge.
SEE THE FLINT HILLS LIKE A LOCAL
CURATED ROUTES FROM LOCAL ENTHUSIASTS
One of the best ways to enjoy the Flint Hills is by Jeep or SUV. It’s fun for the whole family and the Flint Hills have hundreds of miles of beautiful minimum maintenance roads to explore. We’ve put together a few routes that are specially designed for Jeeps or SUVs. The routes we’ve created will take you through some of the Flint Hills’ most picturesque areas and little-known hidden gems. Scan the code for routes.
BEFORE VENTURING OUT
● We commonly refer to backroad excursions as jeeping, but in reality, many vehicles are capable of adventuring in our backyard. Tire selection might arguably be more important than vehicle type when determining equipment. Locals will tell you that a 6 ply or more tire would be best suited for that terrain. The common stock street tire would be risky. Also note, depending on the conditions, local tow companies may choose not to come assist or recover your vehicle until conditions improve. The Flint Hills are rugged and the roadways consist of sharp flint rock. Be certain that your tires can withstand the abuse and that your spare is loaded and ready if called upon!
● The Flint Hills are remote. Please understand that you may get into areas without cell phone coverage. Make sure that you are prepared to handle adversity and that someone knows of your intended route and timeline. Have a printed map of your route and/or a GPS device to assist in navigation.
All routes utilize public roads, however, the land on either side of the road is privately owned. Therefore, DO NOT LEAVE THE ROADWAY and trespass onto private land. Much of the area you'll pass through is open pasture and prairie where there are no fences. Be respectful and remain on the road. Watch out for cattle and other wildlife that may be crossing roadways.
● It’d be wise to ensure you have refreshments for the road. While most routes bring you within reach of communities with amenities and supplies, you may go long stretches without any resources. Also make sure that what you bring with you goes out with you. Please help us keep the Flint Hills clean and beautiful by leaving no trace.
● Fuel up!! Due to the remoteness and distances, don't assume you’ll find a gas station when you most need one.
If you’re not a local, it can be difficult to know where to start exploring the vast area of the Flint Hills, especially when some of the best views and sights are off the beaten path.
A TALE OF
Why Two Guys from the Coasts Fell for Emporia
If you are ever cycling one of the scenic gravel backroads surrounding Emporia, you might encounter another cyclist named Bob.
It could be Bob Claude or East Coast Bob, as his friends call him. Or it could be Bob Spatta, also known as West Coast Bob.
In addition to sharing the same first name, the two men share a love of gravel cycling and a fondness for Emporia, Kansas. So much so that they both put down stakes here. Spatta chose to leave the Bay area and live full-time in Emporia. Claude splits his time between his homes in New Jersey and Emporia.-West Coast Bob Spatta
What did they find in Emporia that drew them from the coasts? For starters, open roads perfect for cycling. Emporia is surrounded by seemingly countless miles of gravel roads traversing the Flint Hills. With stunning pasture and prairie views and much lower traffic levels than most urban dwellers can imagine, the area offers a chance to ride for peak training or pleasure or both.
Spatta loves cycling these roads, but he especially loves taking in the view. “My favorite scenery is this open range out here, where you see the vast green rolling on and on. It’s just a huge wide-open expanse. It’s a lot like sitting in front of the ocean because you can see forever,” he said.
Claude feels it is an experience you cannot find many places. “The expansiveness of the United States is not apparent on the east coast…When you go out to Kansas, you get these wide-open expanses, and it is just so cool.”
I instantly fell in love with the people of Kansas.
Emporia offers a broad array of events year-round. Claude has found he also has a passion for disc golf. He schedules his time in town around the disc golf tournaments, like the annual Dynamic Discs Open and 2022’s PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championship, in addition to the Garmin UNBOUND Gravel race and other cycling events throughout the year.
When he isn’t working or exploring the local sights, like Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Spatta keeps busy riding with the various cycling groups who have a set ride nearly every evening of the week. It’s been the source of many new friendships for him. He recounted how he was riding along during the recent UNBOUND event, and nearly everyone he passed was someone he knew. They all gave him a warm hello and words of encouragement. He said, “A woman next to me goes, ‘Wow! You have a really big team.’ And I’m like, ‘No. I just know everybody. We all ride together.”
For Spatta and Claude, that community is a significant part of what makes Emporia a great place to spend time. “I feel at home in Emporia, and that’s a cool thing,” said Claude.
Spatta said, “I instantly fell in love with the people of Kansas. The friendliness. The kindness. People wave at each other, even if they don’t know you. It’s awesome! I brag to people about the town all the time and tell them it is an enjoyable, relaxing place where it doesn’t matter who you are, you are going to be welcomed by people who are genuinely nice and friendly. It’s pretty cool.”
I feel at home in Emporia and that’s a cool thing.
-East Coast Bob Claude
With thousands of miles of gravel roads winding through the Flint Hills, a close-knit cycling community, and the planet’s most epic bike race, Emporia is the Gravel Cycling Capital of the World.
Emporia sits in the heart of the Flint Hills, with waves of rolling tallgrass prairie stretching to the north, south, and west. Gravel roads snake out from Emporia into sparsely populated countryside. These remote unpaved stretches of the Flint Hills provide the perfect backdrop for cyclists wanting to experience something quite literally, “off the beaten path.” Whether you come for our epic events, such as UNBOUND Gravel, to connect with our community of fellow cyclists, or simply to explore in solitude, it’s easy to see why Emporia is the epicenter of the gravel grinding universe.
UNBOUND GRAVEL is the world’s most recognizable gravel cycling event. Held the first weekend after Memorial Day, this multi-day event contains rides and races of various distances ranging from 25-miles to 350-miles. Over 10,000 riders, family, friends, and spectators converge in Emporia over the course of the weekend to celebrate. All of downtown Emporia becomes a street party with food, drink and plenty of cowbell. You don’t have to be a rider to enjoy the energy and electricity of this world class event.
With three bike shops, there is no lack of support in the gravel cycling capital. ECLECTIC BIKES (823 Commercial St.) is a specialty bike shop where you can rent or buy new or vintage bikes. GRAVEL CITY ADVENTURE & SUPPLY CO. (716 Commercial St.) is your adventure headquarters. From your first gravel ride to overnight bikepacking adventures, they will help you find the right bike and gear to tackle the Flint Hills. At HIGH GEAR CYCLERY (520 Commercial St.) you will find small town service with a big city selection. With a passion for cycling, they will help you find the bike of your dreams.
Locals such as Mulready’s Pub, Gravel City Adventure, High Gear, Eclectic Bikes and Babes on Bikes host weekly group rides to encourage new cyclists, push each other to the next level, or to just simply have fun with other cyclists. There is sure to be a ride to fit your skill level.
Here’s the inside scoop on the best places to ride in the Flint Hills. The Iconic Routes Series, created by the folks at Gravel City Adventure, features 11 expertly planned routes for all skill levels. We’ve listed a few of our favorites below. Scan the code for maps, additional routes, and group ride info. You can also pick up a Pocket Cycling Guide at the Visit Emporia office, 719 Commercial Street.
Despite its ominous name, ‘Murder Ordained’ is a very tame, beginner-friendly route. It is nearly pancake flat with only 249 ft. of climbing over the 13.8 miles.
County Seat Run
This beginner friendly route takes riders to the town of Americus, which at one time rivaled Emporia for the position of county seat. Because the route stays close to the Neosho River, you won’t encounter a lot of climbing, making this a great exploratory ride for gravel enthusiasts of all abilities.
This is what you travel to the gravel capital for – open range and wide open vistas! This loop takes riders over minimum maintenance roads (which can be muddy if wet) and into the open cattle grazing range that makes this area so special.
Prairie fires are an integral part of land management in this part of the world. They also make for a splendid light show at night! The burning is what allows for the tall grass that makes this part of the world famous to grow and flourish. Hit this route in the Spring to try and catch a glimpse of this natural wonder.
HED Emporia Wheels
Made to crush Emporia Gravel
For nearly 40 years, HED Cycling has been one of cycling’s most respected brands. Innovative and pioneering, HED has a history of naming key products after iconic locations. With the HED Emporia Gravel Wheel, Emporia can count itself among the fabled cycling destinations typically associated with Europe.
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E m p o r i a - K a n s a s
w w w. g r a v e l c i t y a d v e n t u r e . c o m
Jackie Morris loves all things disc golf, but what she loves most about the sport is how it gives her the chance to make people happy. As a Tournament Director for Dynamic Discs, she gets to deliver a fun and inclusive experience to a lot of people.
“I really love to see other people’s joy, and I get to see it a lot in this position,” said Morris.
She is one of a handful of trailblazing women to serve as a tournament director in the sport. She sees it as an honor and an opportunity to welcome more people to disc golf. And Morris feels, as a woman, she has some insights that help her elevate the experience for all.
“I decided to start running events because I was going to events around the country, and it didn’t feel like we were all being included. Sometimes the women, the intermediate or advanced players, were playing from tee pads that the pro-men were throwing from, like 1000 feet. Or there weren’t open bathrooms on the courses—things like that. And I was like, ‘Ok. I think only one thing was being thought about here. What about the juniors? The women? The skill levels that aren’t as developed as pros?’ Instead of complaining about it, I just did something about it,”
I really love to see other people’s joy....-Jackie Morris, Dynamic Discs Tournament Director
She has channeled what she learned from those experiences into how she runs events for Dynamic Discs. Whether it is the tournaments, clinics, leagues or volunteer opportunities, Morris wants everyone to know they are welcome to be a part of the fun, no matter how new or experienced they are at the game. It also prompted her and a colleague, Denise Cameron, to start the Emporia Ladies Open, an all-women disc golf event held every October.
Emporia has a full calendar of disc events throughout the year. The Glass Blown Open and Dynamic Discs Open are in the spring. Some years, including 2022, Emporia also hosts the PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships.
But Morris is quick to point out that the opportunities to enjoy disc golf in Emporia aren’t limited to these big marquee events. “We have two events in October that are B-tier events, the All-Women’s event and the Hand-Eye Classic. There is the Monkey Island Open. There are many other local events throughout the year, some of which are fundraisers for great causes. These are ones where you don’t even need to know how to play. You can just come out and have fun.”
You don’t have to time your trip around an event either. Morris has noted more and more disc golfers are visiting Emporia for special life moments like bachelor’s or senior trips and to gather with friends from all over. They play the multiple courses in the area, take a tour of Dynamic Discs headquarters and sample all the great dining and entertainment options the town
She said, “If you are a disc golfer and you haven’t explored Emporia yet, you should. You don’t have to just come for a disc golf tournament. You can make it your destination any time.”
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just disc golf curious, Jackie Morris knows you’ll find a great time
EMPORIA KNOWS DISC GOLF
Emporia is home to a top disc golf retailer, multiple professional courses, championship events, and more disc golf baskets in the ground per capita than anywhere in the world. Emporians are super fans of this sport and play year-round. We were named the #1 Disc Golf Small Town in the U.S. for a reason – we know disc golf.
Plan a Disc Golf Road Trip
Founded in a basement in Emporia in 2005, DYNAMIC DISCS has grown to become one of the leading national brands in Disc Golf. Their flagship retail store (912 Commercial St) should be your first stop. You’ll find the discs you need to excel at your game, as well as the apparel and accessories to look good doing it. Dynamic Discs has some of the coolest discs on the market, known for full color DyeMax graphics and hundreds of designs to choose from. Their expert retail staff can recommend the perfect disc for any skill level, from beginner to advanced.
True disc golf fanatics should also schedule a visit to DYNAMIC DISTRIBUTION (840 Overlander Rd). This 82,000 square-foot facility is the backbone of Dynamic Discs global shipping operation. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the massive warehouse, stamp your own commemorative disc, and check out the new disc golf museum. Call 620-208-6161 or visit dynamicdiscs.com to request a tour.
You can also pick-up a free DISC GOLF POCKET GUIDE at the Visit Emporia office (719 Commercial St) for detailed maps and information on area courses.
Emporia is home to some of the best tournaments in all of Disc Golf. The GLASS BLOWN OPEN (dynamicdiscs.com/gbo) will return as an A-Tier amateur only tournament in 2023 (April 28-30). Participants can expect an exclusive experience with some of the traditional Emporia and GBO activities. The DYNAMIC DISCS OPEN (dynamicdiscsopen.com), will be a professional only event in 2023 and is moving to June 16-18. Fans will not want to miss this crucial tour stop in one of Disc Golf’s favorite communities!
FAN FAVORITE DISC GOLF COURSES
With some of the best disc golf courses in the country and a culture that welcomes players, Emporia is a mecca for disc golfers.
2006 Jones Dr - First hole near Prairie St
The Jones Supreme course was built to meet the ever-increasing need for longer, and more challenging courses for disc golf’s top players. Even amateurs will enjoy the long throws and beautiful setting of this course. The limestone island hole 1 has quickly become an icon that everyone must play at least once in their life!
PETER PAN PARK
515 S Congress St
The holes in this beautiful, historic park are short and technical. Peter Pan Park’s course is great for casual golfers and beginners, but with fun and unusual features, it can challenge more experienced golfers. Water is in play on up to 8 holes and hole 11 is a peninsula shot. Feel free to explore the memorials, stone structures, and natural amphitheater as you play through this historic park. Peter Pan is the place in town where you can get the most birdies.
Merchant St & 18th Ave
Hammond Park is a fun, 9-hole recreational level course set in a small park near Downtown and Emporia State University. Moderately wooded with no water features, this is a great course for beginners to hone their skills.
Downtown Emporia comes to life in spring and fall with colorful celebrations of Latino culture and heritage. Local non-profit, Hispanics of Today & Tomorrow, hosts the CINCO DE MAYO block party annually in May. The group also hosts the DIA DE LOS MUERTOS celebration and parade annually in October. Both events are held Downtown and are packed with food, music, dancing and fun for kids and families. Emporia’s PRIDE CELEBRATION includes a parade, drag show, and food and drink specials throughout the day.
Life in the Flint Hills
FLINT HILLS BEEF FEST is a celebration of the grass cattle industry for which the Flint Hills region of Kansas is known. Several contests involving cattle are designed to showcase the quality and economic competitiveness of Flint Hills Cattle.
Emporia is the official founding city of Veterans Day. In 1953, Emporia celebrated the first Veterans Day a year before congress made it a National Holiday in 1954. Today, Emporia is known for its multi-day ALL VETERANS TRIBUTE CELEBRATION annually in November. Festivities include a Veterans Day Parade, Freedom Fest, Veteran Artists Exhibition, Quilts of Gratitude, and a Memorial Service to honor all veterans. Also during the month of November, take a walk downtown to see the annual VETERANS BANNER DISPLAY, a project led by the Emporia Main Street organization. Over 270 banners are displayed along Commercial Street and ESU Campus honoring veterans.
From block parties and parades to sporting events, there’s always something happening in Emporia. For more information, go to visitemporia.com/events
Nestled at the south end of town on the Cottonwood River are two of Emporia’s best hidden gems, the DAVID TRAYLOR ZOO (75 Soden Rd) and the SERTOMA MINI TRAIN (S Commercial & Soden Rd). Emporia’s beautiful zoo is free to the public and includes a variety of mammals, birds, and reptiles, as well as lush botanical gardens and a small play area. With its compact size, the zoo is an easy stroll for little ones. During the summer, look for the Sertoma Mini Train just south of the zoo in Soden’s Grove Park. The kiddos can hop on and enjoy a ride around the park on a 1/3 mile track. Directly across the highway from the zoo and train, check out Kansas’ oldest dated MARSH RAINBOW ARCH BRIDGE which spans the Cottonwood River. Near the river dam, you’ll find the entrance to the COTTONWOOD RIVER TRAIL. If you hike the full 1-mile length, you’ll come out at another local hot spot, PETER PAN PARK (515 S Congress St). With over 50 acres to explore, Peter Pan Park will bring joy to anyone who doesn’t want to grow up. The park features two playgrounds, a splash pad, an 18-hole disc golf course, and several historic limestone structures. For more outdoor adventure, head five miles east of Emporia to CAMP ALEXANDER (1785 Rd P5). Here you’ll enjoy nearly five miles of hiking and biking trails through the woods and meadows with plenty of twists and turns. Located on the North end of the Emporia State University campus, the DALE GREINER NATURE TRAIL is easily accessible and enjoyable for people of all abilities.
Sweets and Frozen Treats
803 Commercial St
RUYI ASIAN MARKET
1019 Commercial St
22 Commercial St
TRACI’S SHAVED ICE
1608 W US-50 (seasonal)
Friendly Family Competition
Is your family competitive? Emporia is a great place to put those friendly rivalries to the test. We’ve rounded up a few ideas to bond (or earn bragging rights) with your family!
EMPORIA FAMILY FUN CENTER – 1004 E 12th Ave
FLINT HILLS LANES – 1519 W 6th Ave
MUNICIPAL GOLF COURSE – 1133 S Hwy 99
PICKLEBALL COURTS – 18th Ave & Rural St
ROLLERS SKATING RINK – 701 Graham St
These community amenities are kid approved and a great place to learn and play:
EMPORIA ARTS CENTER - 815 Commercial St
Art exhibits, kid-friendly classes, and family-friendly performances.
EMPORIA PUBLIC LIBRARY – 110 E 6th Ave
65,000 reading materials, plus kids story times and crafts.
IMAGINARIUM - 729 Commercial St
A STEM Education center and makerspace offering classes for youth of all ages. Enroll at emporiaimaginarium.org.
JONES AQUATIC CENTER – 4202 W 18th Ave
Waterslides, lazy river, zero-depth entry pool, diving boards, and splash playground.
LEE BERAN RECREATION CENTER – 313 W 4th Ave
Indoor pool and day passes to play racquetball, table tennis, pickleball, and more.
LYON COUNTY HISTORY CENTER - 711 Commercial St
Indoor youth play space and family friendly exhibits.Imaginarium Sweet Granada
REMEMBERING AND HONORING
Located next to Emporia State University’s One Room Schoolhouse, the NATIONAL MEMORIAL TO FALLEN EDUCATORS (12 W 18th Ave, ESU Campus) commemorates educators who lost their lives while performing their professional duties. As the founding city of Veterans Day, our military memorials carry special significance. At the ALL VETERANS MEMORIAL (933 S Commercial St), take a walk amongst the Tablets of Honor, a World War II Sherman tank, a Huey helicopter, and USS Oliver Hazard Perry anchor. Also located at the All Veterans Memorial is the Vietnam Veteran Memorial and Purple Heart Memorial.
DOWNTOWN EMPORIA was designated a Federal and State Historic District in 2012. It encompasses a total of 18 blocks centered around Commercial Street and 6th Avenue. Within this area you will find 17 architectural styles including Gothic Revival style churches and a number of Italianate-style buildings from the 1860s, built soon after Emporia was founded. One of Emporia’s crown jewels is the Granada Theatre. This 1929 Spanish Colonial Revival theater has been fully
restored and is truly eye-dazzling. Enjoy the surroundings as you shop and eat downtown!
The LYON COUNTY HISTORY CENTER (711 Commercial St) presents the story of our region from its earliest inhabitants to today. Explore exhibits about the Flint Hills, area Native Americans, the everyday life of early immigrants, and our history as a railroad hub and the founding city of Veterans Day. The Kid’s Zone and model train makes the Center fun for all ages. HOWE HOUSE AND WELSH FARMSTEAD (315 E Logan Ave) is one of the oldest homes in Emporia, built in 1867 by one of the first Welsh settlers to the area. The home is a rare example of an early settlement structure that has survived in near original condition, including 18-inch thick limestone walls, original black walnut woodwork, native oak floors and furniture. The surrounding 15 acres of land showcase antique farm tools and masonry equipment. Tours are available by appointment (620-340-6310).
William Allen White Historic Home
RED ROCKS STATE HISTORIC SITE (927 Exchange St) is the home of William Allen White, editor of the Emporia Gazette from 1899 to 1944. White wrote many beloved short stories and novels, and rose to prominence on the world stage after penning his fiery editorial, “What’s the Matter with Kansas.” As a star author, journalist, and public figure in his day, Mr. White hosted five U.S. Presidents at his home here in Emporia. White’s gorgeous Tudor Revival style home features a staircase designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, furnishings and personal items of the White family, as well as a lily pond and gardens on the grounds. The site is open for tours Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from April to October.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE home
No matter your reason to live in Emporia, local residents enjoy the ease of the city, the friendliness of fellow residents and family oriented amenities. Finding a home that meets your needs is easy in Emporia.
Emporia provides a wide variety of living accommodations for everyone. Whether you want to be at the center of it all with a downtown apartment or condo for rent or sale, or want to find a quiet and friendly neighborhood; there are plenty of options for you in Emporia. Real estate in Emporia boasts a sustainable market with strong resale value. Our low cost of living offers the opportunity to live in a spacious home without breaking the bank. Live comfortably in a safe and friendly community, and enjoy how much further your earnings stretch.
During the last several years, Emporia has seen an increase in new home construction. Attractive lots are available, just waiting for you to design your dream home.
Emporia takes pride in its unique historic homes. You can expect tree-lined streets and homes with grand columns and generous welcoming front porches .
If apartment living is more your style there are many options scattered throughout Emporia.
Close to Emporia State University (ESU) are several complexes geared to the student population. Emporia also offers a variety of complexes for singles, families and retirees.
Want to be near the action and nightlife? Experience the new sense of energy in Emporia. Settle into a modern loft overlooking the historic downtown district and be right in the heart of it all. Mixing the new with the old, downtown lofts are available in newly constructed buildings as well as historic buildings that have been redeveloped and restored.
Median Mortgage $1,057 Median Rent $650
A LIFETIME OF LEARNING
Changing lives since 1863, EMPORIA STATE UNIVERSITY (emporia.edu) offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate academic programs within its four colleges: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Business, School of Library & Information Management, and the Teachers College. ESU’s total enrollment is 5,324 which includes 2,740 undergraduate students and 2,584 graduate students.
Founded in 1963, FLINT HILLS TECHNICAL COLLEGE (fhtc.edu) continually adapts to meet the needs of today’s workforce. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, FHTC offers innovative programs in the areas of health, arts, information technology and industry technology as well as short-term certificates and general education courses.
EMPORIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS (usd253.org) serve students from preschool through high school, including adult students seeking high school diplomas later in life. The district has a brand-new early childhood center for 3 and 4-year olds, six neighborhood elementary schools, one middle school for grades 6-8, one high school for grades 9-12, and the Flint Hills Learning Center located at the Flinthills Mall for adult learners. All K-12 students are provided with a Chromebook to use at school. Secondary students can take their Chromebooks home to complete assignments.
SOUTHERN LYON COUNTY USD 252 (usd252.org) serves schools located in Hartford, Neosho Rapids, and Olpe. The district recently passed a $14 million bond for district-wide fa-
cilities improvements and additions in all three communities. Early childhood centers are established in Olpe and Neosho Rapids offering preschool and daycare for children 6 weeks to five years of age. Afterschool programming offers enrichment and daycare options to families during the school year.
NORTH LYON COUNTY USD 251 (usd251.org) provides educational services to six rural communities throughout the district along with the households in the county outside of those communities. Those communities are Admire, Allen, Americus, Bushong, Miller, and Reading. North Lyon County Early Learning Center is a preschool, serving 4-year-olds, The Americus school serves K-8, and Northern Heights High School serves grades 9-12 in Allen.
EMPORIA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL (emporiachristianschool.org) exists for the purpose of educating children in spirit, mind, and body. The school’s primary goals are to develop academic excellence, moral integrity, and spiritual depth. Christian precepts and teachings are presented as an integral part of the curriculum. Emporia Christian School offers preschool and childcare, Kindergarten through eighth grade.
SACRED HEART (shsemporia.org) is a Catholic school, serving the grades of kindergarten through 5th. Sacred Heart offers a licensed child care center and preschool, along with extended care after school. While Sacred Heart is steeped in Catholic tradition and values, they welcome families from all faiths. Scholarships and financial aid are available to families who qualify.
A new resident discusses the rewards of being an educator in Emporia
“I am a Midwest boy through and through,” Pete Rydberg announced. He is the middle son, a pastor’s child, who hails originally from the upper midwest states of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Rydberg arrived in Emporia at the height of the pandemic in 2020, taking on the reins as Director of Theatre at Emporia State University. Classes were conducted remotely, the community was in lockdown, there were no live theatrical productions, and the uneasy spectre of Covid hovered over every aspect of life.
But for Rydberg, the positives far outweighed the negatives. “We have this incredibly rich history of theatre in the university’s programs, which made it perfectly poised to be re-envisioned. Covid provided the perfect time and cover for how to position our students for success in the 21st century.”
Emporia State University began producing theatre in 1913, making it one of the oldest theatre programs in the United States. Through an affiliation with the Kennedy Center American College Theatre, ESU students are part of a vital and thriving national theatre. The oldest continuouslyrunning summer theatre on the Great Plains was created at ESU in 1955.
Part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Theatre Department is seeing its biggest enrollments since prior to the pandemic. In fact, the university has had to build in more classroom seats to accommodate the burgeoning number of students.
“We have to re-define what we do every semester anyway,” Rydberg noted. “Between Covid and audience dynamics, we continually evaluate culture’s role and what it is that makes us distinctly who we are. Culture is what sparks conversations–that’s what art is supposed to do.”
Because of the pandemic, Rydberg has not had the opportunity to become well-acquainted with either the business community or establish many personal relationships. One thing he’s thoroughly enjoying, though, is what he’s named the “front porch storm culture. You get to see everybody on your street every time a storm blows up, because everybody’s out on their front porch or on the sidewalks, watching the weather.”
Rydberg is comfortable in the community and comfortable in his chosen profession. “I love what I do,” he says. “It’s why I stay, what gets me up every morning. I get to live my childhood dream, making a living doing my art. And I get to help passionate young people find their way, and grow and develop. I adhere to the notion that we are trying to help create really great humans.”
Something else that delights Rydberg about his new hometown is that “everything is laid out in a perfect grid system. It’s never more than a ten-minute drive to anywhere in town!” He also appreciates local barbecue, the fact that he can find exquisite sushi locally, and the amazing array of Latin food. Rydberg is thrilled that Kansas has trees, and views our Flint Hills landscape “not in black and white, but in Technicolor, like Oz.”
Rydberg confides that until he moved to Emporia, he thought hydroplaning was a myth. Then, just a couple months after the move, he came upon several cars in a ditch–and realized one of them could have been him! He is now firmly committed to driving safely on the Plains.
Rydberg takes his responsibilities and obligations in his adopted hometown seriously. “I am honored by the trust I’ve been given to reimagine our program and the faith that I can do that well.”
EMPORIA IS ENTREPRENEUR FRIENDLY
Emporia has a rich history of entrepreneurship that has helped shape our community into what it is today. From car care products to engraving tools to disc golf gear and fiber internet, Emporians are problem solvers who’ve built solutions for our community and the world.
HOPKINS MANUFACTURING was founded by E.L. (Bud) Hopkins and R.E. (Gene) Hopkins(hopkinsmfg.com) in 1953. Today it is a global company focusing in the automotive and recreational vehicle aftermarket. Hopkins SubZero brand snow and ice tools are the #1 selling winter care brand in the U.S.
Founded in 1977, GLENDO CORPORATION (glendo.com) leads the engraving industry in tools designed for jewelry and engraving arts, as well as equipment for industrial and business use. Don Glaser developed Glendo’s GRS product line.
DYNAMIC DISCS (dynamicdiscs.com) was founded in 2005 by then Emporia State University student Jeremy Rusco. Today Dynamic Discs serves as home to over 70 employees between the retail store and Dynamic Distribution, and the company sponsors over 100 disc golf players. Emporia is now known as the Disc Golf Capital of the World!
VALUNET FIBER (myvalunet.com) was built for Emporians by Emporians. The ValuNet FIBER team consists of over 30 local people who have proudly built Emporia’s only all fiber internet network with speeds up to 1 Gig. The ValuNet network provides the community with 21st century technology and allows them to deliver the highest broadband speed, bandwidth, reliability, and quality found anywhere in the United States to their customers right here in Emporia.
Emporia is strategically located at the nexus of I-35 and I-335 and U.S. Highway 50. Emporia is a regional manufacturing, educational, transportation, medical and agricultural center. Its centralized location and economic diversity make it a wonderful place to create, grow, and locate your business. Emporia is full of great job opportunities in a variety of areas.
After seeing the world, local business owner chose Emporia
Clint Drake was born and raised in Emporia, and is proud to call the town his home after touring the world with the U.S. Army.
“I went to William Allen White Elementary School,” Drake reminisced. “Miss Dalton, who was my pre-kindergarten teacher, was my favorite.”
Drake continued his education in the Emporia school system, and graduated high school with varsity football running back and linebacker honors. His father, who raised him, encouraged his love of sports. The senior Drake still lives in Emporia, too, and has recently retired.
Clint Drake spent six years on active duty with the U.S. Army. He was first deployed to a helicopter base in Kuwait. He was given a sign-on bonus for taking the job of IED Specialist, but spent most of his time with a helicopter assault battalion. During his Army career, Drake toured the world from Germany to Canada, Ireland to Amsterdam.
“I got to see the world a little,” he said, “and got to compare a lot of places. It’s good to see big cities and faraway places when you’re young. But when you’re ready to settle down, it’s good to be from a smaller, friendlier, safer place.”
Drake married a hometown girl before he was deployed to Kuwait, and their daughter was born just a month after he was honorably discharged. After returning to Emporia, Drake learned from a friend that a local wrecker service owner was looking for someone to manage the business. He landed the job, became good friends with the owner, and managed several other businesses for the man.
“It’s a 24/7 business,” Drake said. “It can take a lot out of you.”
When Drake was just 28 years old, he was offered the opportunity to buy the business, Williams Towing & Recovery. Over the years, owner Rex Williams had trained and mentored not only Drake, but others who had worked for him, earning their trust and respect.
Williams Towing & Recovery began in Emporia in 1989 as part of Williams Automotive. In 2018, Clint Drake purchased the business and established the company as its own entity. Services continue to expand from simple towing and roadside assistance to encompass recovery services, load transfers, equipment transportation, and in-house diesel repair.
The company’s philosophy is that no job is too big or too small, and each employee strives to assist every customer in the best way possible.
Fast forward five years, and Drake is firmly settled into his life in Emporia. He says his kids and his dad are what keep him here now. He has good business relationships, good friends, and takes pride in his community.
“I do my best to give back to our community,” Drake said. “I support local educational, law enforcement, public safety, and military organizations and activities. These are all parts of what makes Emporia such a good place to live. These are people who really care about our community.”
Williams Towing & Recovery was named the SBDC 2021 Existing Small Business of the Year, and was voted Best Truck Shop in the Flint Hills, among other honors.
“There’s a happy medium here,” Drake concluded. “You get that small-town feel that I truly appreciate as well as the amenities of a larger city. You know your neighbors, traffic is not terrible, and there’s a certain calmness that comes with living in a more laid-back place.”
There’s a happy medium here.
Emporia has long recognized the importance of good health, opening the first hospital in the region in 1884. Since then, generations of doctors, nurses, and health professionals have provided our community with a full spectrum of advanced health services and friendly, personalized care.
NEWMAN REGIONAL HEALTH (newmanrh.org) is a not-for-profit 25-bed Critical Access Hospital owned by the citizens of Lyon County, Kansas. Recognized as a Level 4 Trauma Center, Newman Regional Health provides inpatient acute and medical rehabilitation services along with a full range of emergency and outpatient care to patients of all ages in Lyon County and surrounding areas in East Central Kansas.
CAREARC (carearc.org), located conveniently near Emporia State University, provides primary medical care, including women’s health services, school and sports physicals, immunizations, and chronic disease management. CareArc provides dental care, including check-ups and cleanings, fillings, crowns, extractions, and dentures. CareArc’s behavioral health clinic offers medication management and counseling for conditions like depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, and eating disorders.
If you are seeking support for yourself or a loved one, CROSSWINDS COUNSELING & WELLNESS (crosswindsks.org) is committed to helping improve mental wellness as a crucial part of overall wellness. Crosswinds employs a variety of providers including psychologists, marriage and family therapists, professional counselors, and social workers to ensure that we can offer you the most effective, caring, innovative, and efficient mental health care possible.
For a listing of Physicians, dermatology, dentist, home health, physical therapy, retirement communities and other health care needs go to members. emporiakschamber.org/directory.
Sixth generation Emporian cares for area seniors and is grateful to call Emporia home
Charisse Symmonds has a solid Kansas heritage. Owner of Sunflower Care Homes, Symmonds is the sixth generation of her family to call the Emporia area home.
“My dad is the fifth generation to live in our family farm house,” Symmonds shared. “I lived in or around Emporia for almost 21 years.”
Like many young people, she chose to explore the wider world, moving first to Kansas City and Oklahoma City then on to St. Petersburg, Florida, before being drawn back home to the Heartland.
Symmonds is a medical doctor and owner, with her husband Clint Arndt, of Sunflower Care Homes, Emporia’s only locally-owned senior care facilities. At the two Sunflower Care locations, Symmonds offers long-term care, respite care, daily care–and child care services. The facilities are small, quaint and homey. Symmonds and her staff strive to create a warm, caring, home-like atmosphere.
“I was offered a job in Ottawa, Kansas for my first job and worked there for three years. My firstborn daughter was born in Ottawa,” Symmonds said. “It was then that I got the surprise of my life to find out I was not only pregnant again, but pregnant with twins!”
That news was a game changer, and made it easy for Symmonds to accept “an amazing offer to come back to Emporia.”
She took a chance on it and embraced the huge life change of moving back to Emporia, starting a new chapter with a new job and twins on the way!
“When I moved back to Emporia about five years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much had changed since I was in college,” Symmonds noted. “The town of Emporia is constantly changing and new things are happening all the time.”
Symmonds and Arndt opened Sunflower Care Homes with the goal of providing quality care for our community’s senior citizens. As a medical doctor, she recognized the need for specialized adult care in the Emporia area. Sunflower’s
highly trained and certified staff, and the fact that each facility is smaller and more intimate than traditional group homes, assures that residents receive the best care possible.
“Being in a small town like Emporia has major perks and I was able to make some great connections with childcare due to old relationships as well as knowing families in the area,” Symmonds said.
Child care is a big issue everywhere, and Emporia is no different. In a unique move, Symmonds has incorporated childcare services with Sunflower Care Homes’ primary senior care services. Beneficial for young and old alike, a new dimension of caring interaction is fostered daily. Seniors read to children for story time, and the sound of children’s laughter brightens the day for everyone.
“The thing that keeps me in Emporia now is the people,” Symmonds said. “I am so thankful to have such an amazing network of parents and teachers for my children. I am proud to work amongst some great physicians in Emporia. There have been some great progressive changes at Newman’s, and having a local hospital in Emporia is another reason I choose to stay in Emporia.”
Symmonds confidently shared that, “I think that Emporia has the possibility of opening as many doors as you want to open. I love that there is so much going on downtown. Emporia is also just a short drive to major cities in Kansas.”
It’s easy to see that Symmonds and her family are happy about being sixth- and seventh-generation Emporians, and have settled in well to life right back in her hometown.
“Emporia has that small town feel where people are so friendly,” Symmonds said, highlighting something we all love about our town.
OFFERING MORE MEDICAL SPECIALTIES AND CONVENIENCE TO FIT THE NEEDS OF OUR GROWING COMMUNITY FOR MORE THAN 100 YEARS.
24/7 Emergency Department
Air and Ground Transport
Breast Care Center
Clinical Decision Unit
Diagnostic Imaging, CT, MRI
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit
Intensive Care Unit
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Orthopedics & Sports Medicine
Radiology & Nuclear Medicine
Sleep Disorder Center
Surgery (Inpatient & Outpatient)
SALES TAX RATE
Residential property tax is determined by taking 11.5% of the appraised value to determine the assessed value; vacant lots are 12% of the appraised value; commercial/industrial property are 25% of the appraised value. The yearly determined mill levy is applied to determine the property tax. Mill levies are computed annually and may vary because of location of the property and/or additional special assessments.
Within Lyon County property taxes are evaluated by mill levies. The current mill levy is 160.512.
TRANSIENT GUEST TAX
There is a 7% tax added to hotel/motel room bills for stays up to 28 days.
1 City of Emporia
111 E 6th Ave
2 Lyon County Courthouse
430 Commercial St
3 Kansas Drivers License Office
1640 Industrial Rd
4 US Post Office
625 Merchant St
5 US Social Security Office 3010 W 18th Ave
6 Emporia Municipal Airport 1005 County Rd 120
7 Enterprise Rent-A-Car 1325 W 6th Ave
8 Hertz Car Rental
423 Graham St at Flint Hills Towing
L-CAT Bus Service
Bus routes run Mon-Sat at designated stops. On demand shuttles are available but must be booked 24 hours in advance for in town trips, and two weeks in advance for out of town trips.
9 Emporia State University
1 Kellogg Circle
10 Flint Hills Technical College
3301 W 18th Ave
11 Emporia Public Schools
District Office (USD #253)
1700 W 7th Ave
12 North Lyon County Schools District Office (USD #251)
614 Main Street, Americus, KS 66835
13 Southern Lyon County Schools District Office (USD #252)
100 Commercial St #A, Hartford, KS 66854
14 Emporia Christian School (Private K-8, preschool
1325 C of E Dr
Sacred Heart Catholic School (Private K-5, preschool ages 2.5-5)
102 Cottonwood St
16 ECKAN Head Start (ages 0-5)
1130 Scott St
17 Emporia Child Care (ages 0-5)
1320 C of E Dr
18 Friends Together Preschool (ages 3-5)
823 Merchant St
19 Jones Early Childhood Center (ages 3-4)
327 S Walnut St
20 Lords Lamb Preschool (ages 3-5)
1348 Trailridge Rd
61 Diligent Trailers Camping 1521 Rd 175
62 Econolodge 2511 W 18th Ave 620-343-7750
63 Eleven Boutique Hotel 3021 US Hwy 50 786-709-3415
Casa Ramos 707 Commercial St
Chi Em Eats 11 E 6th Ave
China Dragon 1113 Commercial St
Commercial Street Diner
614 Commercial St
Cowboy Cafe 502 Albert St
The Daily Station 312 W South Ave
Do-B’s Phillys & Poboys 704 E 12th Ave
The Inner Bean 1328 Exchange St
El Lorito 2144 W Us Hwy 50
El Marmol 713 W South Ave
67 Hampton Inn By Hilton 2900 Eaglecrest Dr 620-412-9040
Golden Wok 2804 W Us Hwy 50
Grab ‘N’ Go Hot Dogs LLC 620-366-2860
Granada Coffee Co 809 Commercial St
Gravel City Roasters 608 Commercial St
Griff’s Diner 20 Commercial St
Gustoso Food Truck 1520 W 6th Ave
Hagaya Ramen & Sushi 1111 Commercial St
Harry & Lloyds East 728 E 6th Ave
House Of Ma 1404 Industrial Rd
Ichiban Asian Fusion Bistro 1430 Industrial Rd
J’s Carryout 27 Commercial St
Mi Chavelita Mexican Grill 1122 Commercial St
Mis Antojitos 2023 ½ W 6th Ave
Mizumi 804 W 6th Ave
Panaderia Progreso Mexican Bakery 602 E 6th Ave
Radius Brewing Company 610 Merchant St
Ruthy’s Frutys 22 Commercial St
Shanghai Restaurant 2002 W 6th Ave
Silvia’s Tacos 124 Commercial St
Sweet Granada 803 Commercial St
Tacos Always Con Todo 801 W 6th Ave
Jimmy Johns 726 Commercial St
KFC 2613 Candlewood Dr
Little Caesars 1014 Commercial St
McDonald’s 1202 W 6th Ave
McDonald’s 2810 W 18th Ave
Panda Express 2830 W 18th Ave
Pizza Hut 2920 W 18th Ave
Pizza Ranch 3000 W 18th Ave
Planet Sub 2715 Candlewood Dr, Suite B
Scooter’s Coffee 1702 Industrial Rd
Sonic Drive-In 1101 W 6th Ave
Spangles 2708 W 18th Ave
Starbucks 2916 Eaglecrest Dr
Subway 1128-D Merchant St
Subway 935 Industrial Rd
Taco Bell 2807 Eaglecrest Dr
Taco Bell 1407 W 6th Ave
Dairy Queen 1710 W 6th Ave
Daylight Donuts 1028 Commercial St
Domino’s Pizza 2326 Industrial Rd
Dunkin’ Donuts 2000 Industrial Road
Freddy’s Frozen Custard 1400 W. 6th Ave
Gambino’s Pizza 1003 Industrial Rd
Goodcents Deli Fresh Subs 1004 E 12th Ave
Hardee’s Family Restaurant 1126 E 12th Ave
Huddle House 4215 W Us Hwy 50
IHOP 2831 W 18th Ave
Wendy’s 1928 W 6th Ave
Chicken House 8 East Hwy K-99, Olpe
Harry & Lloyds 608 Main Street, Americus
Miracle Cafe 103 Franklin St, Reading
Rolling Hills Bar & Grill 622 Main St, Americus
Please scan the code or visit emporiakschamber.org/directory for a listing of Chamber member businesses. Search by alphabet, category or name.
Portions of rural Lyon County 4 Rivers Electric Cooperative
Kansas Gas Service, Inc.
TRASH & RECYCLING
Residential curbside pickup
3100 W South Ave
City of Emporia, KS
104 E 5th Ave
Lyon County Rural Water –Districts #1, #3 and #5:
2501 W 18th Ave
Lyon County Rural Water –District #2:
528 Commercial St
Lyon County Rural Water –District #4:
501 Main St, Neosho Rapids
Nex-Tech Wireless (Internet & Wireless)
US Cellular (Wireless)
ValuNet FIBER (Internet, Phone & Television)
Lyon County Election Office
430 Commercial St
LICENSING & VEHICLES
● Driver’s licenses and vehicle tags should be obtained within ten days after you move. Exams are given at the Driver’s License Examination Center in the Flinthills Mall, 1640 Industrial, 620-342-5146.
● Vehicle tags can be purchased at the Lyon County Courthouse, 430 Commercial.
● If you are moving to Emporia from out of state, stop by the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office at 425 Mechanic St, Tuesday or Friday from 9 a.m. to noon, to get your vehicles inspected.
The Emporia Gazette
Subscribe to the newspaper with a history of journalistic excellence by calling 620-3424800. Six online editions each week. Printed Tuesdays and the weekends.
The Flint Hills Shopper
Receive the Flint Hills Shopper free each Tuesday within a sixcounty delivery area. Call 620208-8888 to subscribe.
Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce & Visit Emporia 620-342-1600
Emporia Police and Fire Emergency: 911
Department of Transportation
620-296-3566 Kansas Turnpike 316-682-4537