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Step Replacements

Pool Liners

Pool Painting

New Construction Opening and Closing Above and In-Ground Pools New Construction • Renovating Old Pools Repair and Replace Above/In-Ground Pool Liners

Your Local Platinum Dealer

Leak Detection Services • Weekly Maintenance Services Repair and Replacement on Plumbing and Electrical Parts

829 Commercial St. • Emporia, KS 620-208-7660 • www.jackslawnandpool.com


“Let us treat your home, like it’s our own.”

RESIDENTIAL • REPAIRS • REMODELING NEW CONSTRUCTION AND COMMERCIAL

821 Commercial St. • Emporia, KS

(620) 342-2122

www.plumbingbyspellmanks.com

Member FDIC

Get your school mascot on your debit card!

4000 0000 0000 0000 4000

GOOD THRU

12/18

DEBIT

For each card issued, we’ll donate $3.00 directly to your school. 701 Merchant (620) 341-7400 1440 Industrial (620) 341-7420

Like us on www.mybankcnb.com


10

PUBLISHER

C hris W alker E D I TO R

A shley W alker P H OTO G R A P H Y

J ason D ailey S hawn H onea WRITERS

R yann B rooks M elissa L owery C O P Y E D I TO R S

Z ach H acker A shley W alker MARKETING

M ontana C ushing C ory B osiljevac A DV E RT I S E M E N T D E S I G N

D an F arrell M argie M c H aley ONLINE facebook . com / emporialiving

F or

more information ,

please contact :

517 M erchant S treet E mporia , KS 66801 620-342-4800 E mporia L iving M agazine is a publication of

TABLE OF CONTENTS

22

6 Advertisers Index Mexican restaurant. 54 Destination 7 Editor’s Note Council Grove 8 Destination Chase County 56 Artful Emporian The artwork of Jamie Darcy 10 Beyond White on display.

Remembering Emporia’s first

and Gray

Furniture rehabber pushes boundaries with color and design.

36

20 Destination North Lyon County

22 Biking Brothers O’Mara brothers prepare for an epic cross country adventure.

36 In Good Spirits Trolley House brings local spirits to Emporia.

On the Cover: Scott and Shawn O’Mara [Photo by Shawn Honea]

4 | EmpoRia Living

44 Destination Madison 46 Legacy of a Taco

46

56


Award

Winnin g

City

Making you feel at home with our award winning services, facilities and amenities.


ADVERTISERS INDEX Ad Astra. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Grand Central Hotel & Grill. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Newman Regional Health. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64

Adams Lumber and Homestore. . . . . . . . . . 54

Griffin Real Estate & Auction Service. . . . . . . . 8

Nex-Tech Wireless. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Haag Management, Inc.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

Plumbing By Spellman, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Haag Pharmacy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53

Prairie Past Times. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Bluestem Farm & Ranch Supply. . . . . . . . . . . 53

Harry & Lloyds. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

Prairieland Partners. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53

Bobby D’s Merchant Street BBQ. . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

High Gear Cyclery. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

Regional Development Association. . . . . . . . 19

Brown-Bennett-Alexander Funeral Home. . . . 8

Hill’s Pet Nutrition‚. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

Rolling Hills Bar & Grill. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

Carpet Plus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

Ichiban. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

RV Doc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

Chase County Chamber of Commerce. . . . 8

IM Design Group. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63

Schankie Well Service. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

City of Emporia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Innovative Vein. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

Shelter Insurance, Dave Watts. . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

Community National Bank. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Jack’s Lawn & Pool Store. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

ShopEmporiaKansas.com. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

El Lorito. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Kansas Foot Care. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

State Farm Insurance, Pete Euler. . . . . . . . . . . 45

Emporia Main Street. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Kansas Maid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

Sutherlands. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Inside Back Cover

Emporia Place. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

KansasLand Bank. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

Symmonds & Symmonds, LLC. . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

Emporia State University. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Lyon County State Bank. . . . . . . . . . . Back Cover

The Sweet Granada. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45

ESB Financial. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Inside Front Cover

Lyon County Title, LLC. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

Thomas A Kriss, DDS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

Evergreen Design Build. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

Mark II Lumber. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

Thompson Family Dental. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45

Excellent Home Solutions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

Marlin Flanagin, DDS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

Tyson Foods. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45

Farmers & Drovers Bank. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54

McKinzie Pest Control. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

USD 251, North Lyon County. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

Farmers Insurance - Houston Sober. . . . . . . 55

Metamorphosis Day Spa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

USD 253, Emporia Public Schools. . . . . . . . . 45

First Start Pool & Patio. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

Modern Air. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52

Valerie’s Gifts & Such. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54

Geotech, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53

Mr. G’s Car Wash. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

Williams Automotive. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

Congratulations to El Lorito for being voted the

EmporiYum Restaurant of the year! E l L o r i to

Stop by for the party!

2144 W Hwy 50, Emporia, KS 66801 (620) 342-7547


EDITOR’S NOTE Welcome to the newest edition of Emporia Living Magazine. We may be hitting your coffee tables a little later than usual this year, but then again, during these last several months, everything seems to be anything but usual, right? But as our community begins to reopen, we can’t think of a better time to release the 8th edition of Emporia Living. Emporia needs our support more than ever right now. Businesses have been rocked by this unprecedented time, and they are fighting hard to keep their doors open. We want to thank all the area businesses who supported Emporia Living this year. Join us in showing our appreciation by shopping the businesses featured on the following pages first when considering a purchase or a service needed. None of the businesses in Emporia can survive without our support. They are the backbone of our community and provide so much to the quality of life here. So, sit back and enjoy the stories in this issue. It’s good to be reminded that even during a time of so much uncertainty, some things never change; there are still great people living in Emporia, doing some extraordinary things!

Chris Walker Editor and Publisher


Griff in Real Estate

Destination

CHASE COUNTY F O R A D D I T I O N A L I N F O R M AT I O N V I S I T : W W W . C H A S E C O U N T Y C H A M B E R . O R G

Griffin Real Estate

A Tradition of Caring & Service

Metamorphosis Day Spa GRANDCENTRALHOTEL.COM

“We specialize in real estate sales and farm/commercial liquidation auctions.”

COTTONWOOD FALLS, KANSAS | 620.273.6763

begins”

* Customized Facials * Chemical Exfoliation * Luxurious Body Treatments * Reiki * Special Occasion Makeup * Lash Extensons * Waxing

Kim Coslett RESTORE. REVIVE. 325 Broadway Cottonwood Falls, Ks RELAX. “Your dermalogica retailer” REPEAT!

Licensed Esthetician, LPN • 316-772-8630 FB-Metamorphosis Day Spa • Spa-metamorphosis.com

Gourmet Burgers Regional Ranch and Farm Sourced Foods Bison ✯ Entrée Salads ✯ Seafood Vegan & Vegetarian Options Local Craft Beers on tap CATERING AVAILABLE 318 Cottonwood St. | Strong City, KS 620-273-8440 www.adastrafoodanddrink.com Thurs. 5-9pm | Fri. 11am-10pm Sat. 11am-10pm | Sun. 11am-10pm

Sales / Auctioneer 620-794-8824

Office: 305 Broadway, Cottonwood Falls, KS 66845 Phone: 620-273-6421 • Fax: 620-273-6425 Toll Free: 1-866-273-6421

www.GriffinRealEstateAuction.com

Featuring Creekstone Farms Premium Meats

RICK & NANCY GRIFFIN

c h a s e c o u n t y c h a m b e r. o r g 318 Broadway St. • Cottonwood Falls • (620) 273-8469

Chuck Maggard

Boutique Hotel ___ Restaurant & Bar

305 BROADWAY • COTTONWOOD FALLS, KS 66845

“Where transformation Heidi Maggard, Sales • 620-794-813 cell Chuck Maggard, Personal Property Manager Services Include cell 620-794-8824

Broker 620-794-8813

griffinrealestateauction@gmail.com

& Auction Service LC

Broker & Auctioneer • 620-343-0473 cell Office: 620-273-6421 www.griffinrealestateauction.com

Heidi Maggard

& Auction

Gwendolyn Runde (620) 273-6311 | 201 Cherry Cottonwood Falls, KS 66845 bbafh@hotmail.com www.brown-bennett-alexander.com

SHOP LOCAL. EAT LOCAL. SPEND LOCAL. ENJOY LOCAL.

c h a s e c o u n t yc h a m b e r. o r g

Gourmet Burgers Regional Ranch and Farm Sourced Foods Bison ✯ Entrée Salads ✯ Seafood Vegan & Vegetarian Options Local Craft Beers on tap CATERING AVAILABLE 318 Cottonwood St. | Strong City, KS 620-273-8440 www.adastrafoodanddrink.com Thurs. 5-9pm | Fri. 11am-10pm Sat. 11am-10pm | Sun. 11am-10pm

A Tradition of Caring & Service

Gwendolyn Runde | (620) 273-6311 | 201 Cherry Cottonwood Falls, KS 66845 | bbafh@hotmail.com www.brown-bennett-alexander.com


620.342.6622 GRAHAM ST. EMPORIA, KS

f : 62 0 - 3 42 - 6 62 0 w w w. e ve r g re e n d e s i g n - b u i l d . co m

Commercial * Retail * Office * Manufacturing Warehouse * Banks * Medical Clinics

Free Roof Inspection Tips to educate the consumer: • Choose a reputable outfit - beware of companies that enter the community only after storms to take advantage of insurance and desperate homeowners • Resist high-pressure tactics • Ask for a written contract • Observe them as they inspect your roof • Make sure they don’t cause more damage • Don’t pay in advance

The one you can trust!

EExcellent xcellent H Home ome S Solutions olutions ROOFING

• GUTTER • HOME EXTERIOR

Faith • Integrity • Quality

BRIAN WALBURN (620) 366 1310


Beyond

white

gray By Ryann Brooks

Photos by Jason Dailey

Furniture rehabber pushes boundaries with color and design In a world full of white and gray furniture, sometimes a pop of color is just what you need. And Serrell Humphreys certainly has an eye for color. 10 | EmpoRia Living


SUMMER 2020 | 11


Humphreys, along with her mother, Pamela Humphreys, and sister, Sunnin Keosybounheuang, operate PS Creations — a Facebook-based business front which sells rehabbed and repurposed items they have crafted. “We all started doing it on our own,” she said. “Then, [we] decided to do it together — which we did for a few years. But, with my sister and I both working full time, my sister’s kids getting older and having lots of activities, and my mom living in Kansas City, our schedules just were not matching up.” It’s something that has come naturally to the family. Her father, Sam Humphreys, built the house he shares with his wife, Lynn, on Road D in Emporia. Serrell said she would often help out as he was working and tinkering on various projects over the years. Her mom has never shied away from a DIY project, either. “My mom was always very handy and into fixing and I learned from both of them,” Serrell said. “I’ve always been independent and fixing stuff at home. If I had a hole in the wall in my bedroom, I’d fix it myself. I guess that’s how it started.” An Emporia native, Humphreys said she moved to Overland Park with her mom shortly before graduating early from high school. She moved back to Emporia in 1999 and pursued a career in nursing — becoming a licensed practical nurse. “When I was 16, I got my CNA license,” she said. “I went to Johnson County Community College for a year and a half

12 | EmpoRia Living


SUMMER 2020 | 13


Humphreys likes to hunt for deals at flea markets, antique stores, garage sales and auctions.

and I wasn’t really liking it, so I decided to move back and go to nursing school in Emporia.” Humphreys said she continued crafting and doing projects at home in her free time, always looking to learn new skills or pick up some new techniques. About six or seven years ago, she started selling pieces she rehabbed or repurposed. She realized quickly that she enjoyed making people happy when they liked what she had created. “The best part about the furniture is when somebody requests something and then they get it home and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I love it!’” she said. “I get so many pictures of it in their space. That’s a good feeling. And I build furniture too; that’s probably my favorite thing to do.” Humphreys likes to hunt for deals at flea markets, antique stores, garage sales and auctions. Sometimes she finds different items that can be repurposed on Facebook. Some of it is usable. A lot of it ends up in the fire pit. Either way, she enjoys the process.

14 | EmpoRia Living


She has done dressers, nightstands, TV stands, armoires, accent pieces. People like her style — which Humphreys describes as “different.” What she means is, every piece she makes is unique. “I don’t really have specific things that I look for,” Humphreys said. “I like more ‘unique’ pieces than the normal stuff.” It’s what sets her work apart from what you can buy at most furniture stores. “White, for some reason, is the most popular color for furniture,” Humphreys said. “Everybody wants white stuff.

16 | EmpoRia Living


I do not understand it. I don’t know if it’s because it looks clean and everything when they buy it, and so they like that part of it, but that is one of the most popular colors for furniture.” Humphreys likes bright colors that stand out against the whites and blacks and grays that everyone seems to want. Sometimes she’s not sure if something will sell, but sometimes a piece will call out to a customer who sees it online. “The other day I painted a blue desk — it was like a bright blue called ‘Dragonfly blue’

SUMMER 2020 | 17


CARPET • TILE • VINYL • HARDWOOD • RUGS & MORE!

HUGE selection for all your FLOORING

!

G CIN N A R

projects!

1501 W 6th • Emporia • (620) 342-9467 www.CarpetPlus.com

18 | EmpoRia Living

N

FR

FI E F EEEE STORTAILS S

DE

O

and it is bright, but it’s really pretty.” The couple that bought the desk, Humphreys said, loved it. “It was perfect for their daughter. They said it would match her room.” She also replaces the hardware on different pieces, which completes the look on many old and dated pieces. Sometimes she calls her dad for advice on different projects. Other times she’s swapping ideas with her mom and sister. “We’ll text each other pictures of stuff and be like, ‘What do you think of this?’” Humphreys said, adding that sometimes she doesn’t

even see pictures of things her mom and sister have made until they have posted them to Facebook. “Since we don’t really work together anymore, sometimes I’ll need a specific handle or something, so we all still call each other and say, ‘Hey, I need one of these, do you have one?’ So we trade stuff. Just because we don’t actually do the project together anymore, we still use each other a little bit to help each other out.” Humphreys said, even though she is filling commissions and selling pieces regularly, she still considers this to be a side hobby. And, that’s probably why she enjoys it so much. Follow @pscreationssite on Facebook to keep up with Humphreys’ latest projects.


Working for Emporia For 26 years

Return on Investment Over the Last Quarter Century

Job creation of over

2,100 full-time jobs

Represents 12.8%

of the total employment in Lyon County, Kansas

= 5 full-time jobs

Over 2,657,443 sq.ft. in new buildings

= 1 percent of employment in Lyon County, KS

977,125,000

$

in new buildings and equipment

IN THE LAST 7 YEARS ALONE: The Emporia Manufacturers have invested $218,426,000 in 585,000 sq. ft. of buildings and new processing equipment creating more than 1,100 jobs. New companies locating in the Emporia/Lyon County area are Better Life Technologies, BLI, CAMSO, Dynamic Distribution, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Holman Distribution, Hostess Brands, Norfolk Iron & Metal, Pratt Industrial, Simmons Pet Food, Valu-Net FIBER, Westar Energy – Emporia Energy Center. Existing Company expansions are: Birch Communications, Cargill Pet Food, Detroit Reman, EVCO, Fanestil, Glendo, Hopkins Manufacturing, Tyson Foods, Thermal Ceramics and VEKTEK.

719 Commercial St • Emporia, Kansas 620-342-1600 • emporiarda.org


Destination

NORTH LYON COUNTY

KansasLand Bank 620-443-5163 702 Main St. PO Box 374 Americus, KS 66835 www.kansaslandbank.com

ADMIRE | ALLEN | AMERICUS | READING | MILLER

KansasLand Bank 620-443-5163 702 Main St. PO Box 374 Americus, KS 66835 www.kansaslandbank.com

AGED AND HAND CUT KC STRIPS AND RIBEYES

“Preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s opportunities!”

620-443-5116

Empowering students to learn without limits.

HOMEMADE PIES Made in-house

622 Main • Americus, KS 620-443-7005

Harry & Lloyds 620-481-2085 GOOD

TIMES

G R E AT

FOOD

608 MAIN ST. | AMERICUS, KS 620-443-5066

Harry & Lloyd’s

MON: CLOSED | TUES-THURS: 5-10PM | FRI & SAT: 5PM-2AM | SUN 1-7PM

MAKING

AMERICUS G R E AT A G A IN ! ESTABLISHED 2015

AMERICUS KANSAS

608 Main St. • Americus

620-443-5066


Team Kriss

Gentle, Caring Dentistry Dr Thomas A Kriss, DDS

Crowns, bridges, dentures, implants, root canals and cleanings. Digital chair side imaging, so you are a part of your treatment plan.

1212 Chestnut | Emporia, KS | 620-342-8256 | Like us on

Every Day Made Better Hot tubs of all sizes at

620-208-7665

Trained Tech 2 Staff in all Makes & Models

Showroom located at

2929 W. Hwy 50


british colombia

By Ryann Brooks

Biking Brothers montana

O'maras Journey to their biggest adventure ever

Shawn and Scott O’Mara grew up the way a lot of brothers do, spending time together exploring, riding bikes and being each other’s built-in best friends. And, as time went on, they gradually grew apart. Now, the brothers have rekindled that bond through a shared love of cycling — and in the next year they plan to put that bond to the test by riding the Tour Divide. Photos by Shawn Honea

colorado

new mexico


SUMMER 2020 | 23


The Tour Divide is a 2,745 mile ultra-distancing bikepacking race that takes adventurers through the length of the Rocky Mountains, from Canada to the Mexican border. It’s a massive undertaking, one for which the O’Maras have been training for the better part of four years. While the brothers have done smaller-scale bikepacking trips and have some experience in the area, they have never done anything quite so daunting. “For us, this encapsulates probably three or four years of just being on the radar of interest,” Scott said. Each person’s setup is different, Scott said, fine-tuned to its rider’s specifications. And with a month of riding ahead of them for the Tour Divide, the setup needs to be comfortable, durable and lightweight — around 60 pounds total, including the bike.

24 | EmpoRia Living


SUMMER 2020 | 25


british colombia

Biking brothers

Born just less than two years apart — Scott was born Nov. 1974 and Shawn in Oct. 1976 — Scott said growing up as the older brother, he always had a shadow with Shawn. The pair grew up in Emporia, spending a lot of time exploring the Burns Street neighborhood with the rest of the kids on the block. “Growing up, everybody rode their bikes,” Scott said. “We didn’t have these fancy phones, and we would just show up at our friends’ house. We had a whole group of kids that we’d hang around with, Shawn and me. We were pretty much inseparable growing up, and then as we got older, you kind of get your own friends; and even though there’s only a two-year age difference between us … then we kinda went our own way.”

IDAHO

26 | EmpoRia Living


The Tour Divide is a 2,745 mile ultra-distancing bikepacking race that takes adventurers through the length of the Rocky Mountains, from Canada to the Mexican border.

MONTANA

wyoming

colorado

NEW MEXICO

s

SUMMER 2020 | 27


For Shawn, growing up with a brother was growing up with a friend he could always count on being there. They shared the same hobbies and interests, and spent the majority of their time together. “With a brother, you have a built-in friend,” Shawn said, agreeing that once the pair hit middle school they started growing apart. Back then, the Emporia Public Schools District still operated the Lowther buildings, with sixth-graders getting sent to the Lowther North building and seventh- and eighth-graders sent to Lowther South. “As he went through middle school and then got into high school, I think there was probably a little bit of a gap of hanging out and doing so many things together, just because his circle of friends would have changed a little bit more dramatically. We both would have been in separate schools with a separate circle of friends.” Both of the O’Maras went into ITbased careers. Shawn has been with ValuNet Fiber for the last eight years, and Scott works in the IT department at Emporia State University.

28 | EmpoRia Living

Shawn

Shawn and Scott are known for their contagious smiles and brotherly competition on their biking adventures.

Still, it was well after high school, when they were in their early 30s with families of their own, that the O’Mara brothers would reconnect through a mutual love of bicycles and rekindle that brotherly bond. The brothers came to the sport separately — though for similar reasons.

In 2009, Shawn was looking for some ways to change his lifestyle, wanting to incorporate physical activity into his routine after falling into some less-thanstellar habits over the years. Having already changed his diet, he said he got into gravel riding when a friend invited him to dust off his old bike and come out to a race in Olpe. “I was about 10 years into a marriage and I think, having a young family, you develop a routine — and my routine wasn’t all that active,” Shawn said. “I was probably about 70 pounds overweight for my height and body structure, so it kind of came to a point where I had to take a little bit better care of myself. That’s when my friend reintroduced me to cycling.” He loved it. Two years later, Shawn was a selfdescribed “serious rider,” looking to increase his speed and endurance through an intensive training program. It was around that time Scott — who also returned to riding in 2009 — started to ride with him.


Scott

Scott said he really redeveloped an interest in bicycling in 2009, though he had enjoyed mountain biking in the years before that. He had also gone through a period of lower activity, finding that he had gained more weight than he had liked as he spent time raising a family. As the Dirty Kanza gained popularity in Emporia, Scott found himself looking at people on bikes and thought it looked like fun. “I had spent a lot of time golfing and doing whatever and then I started seeing these guys cycling, and I was like, ‘Man, that looks like a blast, going out and really getting out on these bike trails,’” he said. “It kind of turned into this gravel scene, and I started out in early ‘09 weighing about 270 pounds. Really, my first step in getting healthier was, I started going to the gym and eating better and then cycling trickled in. It started out as a hobby and kinda turned into a passion.”

SUMMER 2020 | 29


Healthy competition

Joining each other for rides served to bring out some healthy competitive edge between the brothers at the beginning, although some of that seems to have been a little one-sided. While Scott said the pair has always been competitive with each other, Shawn felt like they reserved that for a race. “I could never let my little brother beat me,” Scott said. “It’s one of those things where he was getting faster and I couldn’t let him get by me.” “I never really felt like we were competing against each other before,” Shawn added. “I guess my outlook has always been kind of a ‘home team’ type of mentality since we’re brothers. I think I’m looking at it from the standpoint of us competing against whatever it was we were doing — that challenge before us — and constantly looking out for one another.”

30 | EmpoRia Living


And, looking out for each other is something they do well. The O’Maras have each raced the DK’s 200-mile course and DK XL — a 350-mile race through the Flint Hills — together. And these days, they are spending more time doing longer, slower-paced rides and adventure-based experiences. Being able to do them together has given them a chance to keep building up that relationship

SUMMER 2020 | 31


they have both come to cherish so much over the last 11 years. “I think what I’m most proud of is just getting healthy and forging that bond between me and my brother again,” Scott said. “And being able to spend time with my family — they take care of us at the checkpoints out on the Dirty Kanza. I love it and how much they enjoy being out there, so that’s really cool.” “It took us back to our boyhood days of running out on our own together like we did as kids,” Shawn agreed. “It was nice to join back up and really kind of go back to becoming each other’s best friends with similar hobbies and some more activities that we love.”

The race of a lifetime

It was only a matter of time before the O’Maras began to seriously prepare for the Tour Divide. “As we had begun in the last few years doing more of that adventure-type riding, we kind of talked about how we would do it, because it’s kind of a minimalisttype setup,” Scott said. With their need for personal bests and speed runs out of their systems, both Scott and Shawn said it was a good time to focus on the journey — a once-in-alifetime chance to see a part of the world neither of them has ever seen. “What it really boils down to is, the way I’m doing this is just for the personal accomplishment and personal adventure,” Shawn said. “You have to go into it with the mindset of, ‘I’m gonna take this day however it comes and any problems or issues that arise from the course of the day — the highs and the lows — it’s all about solving the problem.’” Shawn said he is preparing for a challenge that will be both emotionally and physically exhausting at times. Not only

32 | EmpoRia Living

will the brothers face drastically changing elements — from snow to rain to deserts and everything in between — they will also have to balance how far they can travel each day based on how they feel. Some days, they will feel like they can ride forever. Others, they may feel like every mile is an uphill battle. “Those are figurative things that we’re gonna have to ride through as well, the peaks and the valleys of it,” Shawn said. “As we’ve evolved in our riding, where it has gone to more of an adventure aspect of it, that’s what I foresee for us,” Scott added. And had it not been for the novel coronavirus, the O’Maras would have already started their trek. The 2020 race was scheduled to start June 12 in Banff, Alberta, Canada. But COVID-19 changed the course of the year, closing the borders between the United States and Canada. Now, Shawn and Scott have their sights set on 2021. And instead of feeling disappointed about what could have been, they are looking at this as an opportunity for more time to train and prepare. They will keep working on nutrition, packing styles, routines and trying out new gear. The O’Maras are supported by Emporia-based Gravel City Adventure and Supply Co. who helps outfit them with new gear and supplies. “It’s just another year of prep, I mean, it’s really just another year, right?” Scott said. “I feel like I’m there, but all you can do is just keep building your mental game and physical game and just keep learning.” And at the end of the day, they are preparing for the adventure of a lifetime. “We get to spend 30 days together,” Scott said. “It may not be 30 days together all the time, but our ultimate goal is hopefully being close to coasting each other so we can roll into the end together; but you never know what it’s gonna bring.”


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I 36 | EmpoRia Living


When Josh Williams set an ambitious goal to open a distillery in Emporia within two years of starting the project, he could not have foreseen that a global pandemic would be what delayed opening day. By Melissa Lowery

In Good Spirits Photos by Jason Dailey

Local distillery opens in historic space

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38 | EmpoRia Living


It

was while touring Ozark Distillery in Missouri with owner and former Emporian, Dave Huffman, that Williams began to seriously consider opening a distillery. Excited about the creative possibilities, he researched the realized worth of a distillery for the local economy before deciding to take the leap in May 2018. “Eventually someone was going to need to open one in Emporia, because you have the brewery, we have the winery, so we knew there was a desire,” Williams said. “It’s exciting to have more small distilleries like ours starting up. The more people in the industry, the more room there is for creativity; for people to try something that hasn’t been done before.” Trolley House Distillery is located at 502 S. Commercial St., former home of Dalton Gang Antiques and originally the storage building for Emporia’s mule-drawn trolley cars. Major reconstruction was needed to convert the space into a functional distillery and entertainment venue, but Williams and his team, including Travis Hitt, preserved as much of the building’s history as possible. “You can still see a couple of rails in the concrete, the stable areas, even the pit where the mechanics had to go under the cars to do repairs,” Williams said. “We preserved as much of that as we could so we can show people when we give tours.” It took a team of dedicated people to keep the project moving toward Williams’ original opening day goal. On average, opening a distillery takes 4-6 years due to equipment manufacturing times and lengthy permit processes at federal, state and local levels. “The average order time for distillery equipment is six months,” Williams said. “Then

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40 | EmpoRia Living


We preserved as much of that as we could so we can show people when we give tours.

the federal license wait time is another six months, then you apply for your state and local licenses, you have your inspections, there are zoning and fire code compliance issues to work on, not to mention lining up funding. It’s a long process.� After nearly two years of hard work and focus, Williams planned to open Trolley House Distillery on May 1, 2020. But as the novel coronavirus spread through the United States and normal business operations were disrupted, he realized that he was in a prime position to do something tangible to help during the pandemic. With help from his parents, Rex and Debbie Williams, and KC Crist from Air Conditioning Specialists, he converted the distillery equipment to produce desperately needed hand sanitizer for the community.

SUMMER 2020 | 41


“I’ve always been raised to pay attention to our business ventures and work as hard as we can, but I also realize that if I don’t extend a hand to help those we can, then we’re not going about things the right way,” Williams told The Emporia Gazette in March. “You have to be able to give back to the community and help out, especially during times like this.” Once the hand sanitizer operation was established, Williams returned focus to his original goal. Work on the building and developing spirits continued with plans to open later this year once stay-at-home restrictions are lifted. Trolley House Distillery will open with a full menu of beer and wine in addition to house brand flavored moonshine made from locally-sourced corn. Additional spirits distilled on-site are also in the works. “We have six flavors of moonshine in development right now, and we plan to start making bourbon later this summer,” Williams said. “We’re also excited to learn how to make rum as well as developing other products.” In addition to the bar area, the distillery will feature a tasting room that will be available to rent for private events and an outdoor patio with a handcrafted pergola. Williams hopes Trolley House Distillery will add to Emporia’s growing reputation as a destination for unique, locallyproduced craft alcohol in addition to the activities available in the area. With a brewpub and winery already established, he sees the distillery as a natural but still uncommon addition. “We’re excited about having people come in and see the building and to share everything we’ve been doing,” Williams said. “This will be something new for the city, something that will add to and, I hope, enhance what we already have that makes Emporia a good place to live and to visit.”

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Legacy of a TACO: Remembering Emporia’s First Mexican Restaurant

46 | EmpoRia Living


Today, Emporia boasts a variety of restaurants serving cuisine from different areas of Latin America; but 45 years ago you would be hard-pressed to find authentic food from south of the border on local menus. | By Melissa Lowery

|

Photos by Jan Buckman

SUMMER 2020 | 47


That changed in 1976 when Simon Rodriguez Sr. opened Rodriguez Taco Inn, Emporia’s first locally-owned authentic Mexican restaurant. Located on South Arundel Street, Rodriguez Taco Inn was originally a boxcar from the Santa Fe Railroad, one of many converted into housing for railroad workers in the early 20th century. Rodriguez was one of those laborers, moving to Emporia from Mexico in 1917, along with his father, to work for the railroad. But Rodriguez was an entrepreneur at heart. His daughter, Teresa Rodriguez, recalled that in addition to opening the restaurant, her father was a barber, a musician, a grocery store owner and he bought and renovated homes in the neighborhood to rent. “He was always looking for ways to make money,” she said. “He had a big family to take care of and was always helping neighbors, too.” Rodriguez and his wife, Lupe, had 14 children — eight daughters and six sons — several of whom still live in Emporia. The youngest, Anna Rodriguez, resides in the former Taco Inn, which was renovated back into a single-family home after the restaurant closed. Recently, four of the Rodriguez daughters — Teresa and Anna, Rosemarie Sanchez

48 | EmpoRia Living


SUMMER 2020 | 49


According to materials archived at the Lyon County History Center, Rodriguez Taco Inn opened its doors on April 19, 1976.

and Lucy Suarez — gathered to reminisce about their father and the family restaurant. In the 1950s and 1960s, Rodriguez operated a grocery store out of the renovated boxcar, serving the mostly immigrant population living near the railroad. The idea of opening an authentic Mexican restaurant arose after he started taking Lupe’s homemade tacos to gigs with his band, selling them to people between sets. Converting the grocery store into a restaurant meant another round of renovations. Most of the work was completed by the Rodriguez family, this time adding a large kitchen and dining room to the original boxcar structure. Iconic brick arches signaled the entrance to the parking area. According to materials archived at the Lyon County History Center, Rodriguez Taco Inn opened its doors on April 19, 1976. At the time, Emporia had three franchised Mexican food restaurants, but with Lupe as head cook, Rodriguez Taco Inn was the only dining establishment serving authentic Mexican food. The menu included tacos, enchiladas,

50 | EmpoRia Living

burritos, tamales and frijoles, made fresh from scratch daily. Originally, the Rodriguezes planned to open the restaurant two days per week, but demand for Lupe’s home cooking meant the restaurant was soon open daily, including Sundays. Rosemarie recalled working summers and welcoming people from as far away as California who heard about

Taco Inn by word of mouth and stopped to eat on their way to a vacation spot. “Especially in the summer, we had people from all over come to eat,” she said. “They would come year after year. It’s amazing how people would find us, because we didn’t advertise outside of Emporia.” Most of the customers were local, including regulars who

still come to mind decades later. “I remember there was a couple who would come in every day, bring the newspaper and just sit and relax for hours,” Rosemarie said. “Mr. Stanley would come in every Friday evening. He always wanted his beef enchilada,” Anna chimed in as the sisters remembered their days working in the family restaurant.


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Rodriguez and his son, Simon Jr., who managed the business, also served as informal cultural ambassadors. The June 23, 1976, edition of The Emporia Gazette noted that the father-son duo seized the opportunity to educate nonLatinx patrons about Mexican traditions and culture. The restaurant business was a perfect match for Rodriguez, who loved meeting new customers and greeting familiar faces. “Dad was a people person,” Teresa recalled. “He talked to everybody. Seeing him do what he enjoyed — talking to people — is what I remember most.” It was also an opportunity to create jobs in the neighborhood. All of the Rodriguez children living at home during the years the restaurant was open worked there in some capacity. The sisters remembered their cousins and neighbors waiting tables and working with their father in his other endeavors. “I ran into someone from the neighborhood recently who said, ‘I remember your dad, he had me come work on the driveway and paid me,’” Lucy said. “For a lot of us kids, Dad gave us our first job.” Although Rodriguez Taco Inn closed its doors in 1983, Emporians can still experience a taste of it today: Lupe’s signature taco recipe was given to the nuns at St. Catherine Catholic Church, who now sell them to long lines of customers at community events. The wildly popular “Nun Tacos,” as they’re referred to locally, have raised thousands of dollars for church improvements and community needs over the years. It’s an apt legacy for a man — and a family — who contributed so much to Emporia. “My dad was a very faithful man; I know he would be happy his tacos are helping the church,” Teresa said with a smile.

52 | EmpoRia Living


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56 | EmpoRia Living


Artful EMPORIAN BY RYANN BROOKS

PHOTOS BY JASON DAILEY

Whether it’s organizing the No Coast Film Festival or the Emporia Strong fundraiser in the face of a growing national crisis, local artist Jamie Darcy has been making an impact on the community in the short time he’s called Emporia home. Darcy grew up in Dundalk, Ireland, a small town about halfway between Dublin and Belfast situated just south of the border with Northern Ireland. The town itself is about the same size as Emporia, but the population is nearly twice as large. He never imagined he would end up living in the United States — let alone Emporia, Kansas. “The only thing I knew about Kansas was the same old tropes of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ tornadoes, and sunflowers and wheatfields,” he said. Then he fell in love with a woman from Emporia, picked up his life and moved to the US. While the relationship did not stand the test of time, Darcy said he found himself in an interesting position. “The idea was never to stay here in the states,” he said. “But what I didn’t count on was that I fell in love with this town as well. It reminded me so much of home. This community just blew my mind.”

SUMMER 2020 | 57


58 | EmpoRia Living


N

ow, three years after moving to the community, he can’t imagine living anywhere else. Emporia has become his home, friends and neighbors have become his family, and the community has become his inspiration. As a graphic designer, Darcy has found that he fits right in with the growing arts community. He completed a degree in film and video production from the Dundalk Institute of Technology in 2011, realizing quickly that he was more interested in the marketing and design aspects of movie-making than the actual filmmaking process itself. A few years later, after realizing he was making more money as a freelance graphic designer than he was with his film degree, he returned to school and received another degree — this time focusing on communications and design. Darcy was no stranger to graphic design. He had been designing posters and album covers for friends and bands for extra money, developing his skills as he could along the way.

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Emporia has become his home, friends and neighbors have become his family, and the community has become his inspiration.

“If

you ask most graphic designers how to start off, it's almost always that they start off with Microsoft Paint — that free program you used to get on the computers — and just drawing on that; running with it,” Darcy said. “It wasn't until I got my hands on a pirated copy of Photoshop years later that I got to learn the techniques of being a designer, and if you ask most graphic designers, they will tell you the exact same story. It's funny that way.” Darcy began spending a lot of his off-time at Gravel City Roasters, usually bringing along his art supplies. A lot of his artwork has been put on display at the downtown coffee shop — an agreement with owner Angie Baker where Darcy would get free coffee in return for producing some prints. The coffee shop has become Darcy’s office away from the office. Before the statewide shutdown, it was not unusual to see him working on freelance projects and his own personal projects as well, sipping on a drink and watching people.

60 | EmpoRia Living


“When I started doing the prints for Gravel City, I wasn't getting paid for it,” he said. “I was just doing it because it’s something I love to do. Angie would give me free coffee, just to do prints for her and I loved that, and that’s where I ended up doing other prints for people.” Darcy said he started designing prints for other businesses, too. Not because he was being asked, but because he wanted to do something nice for his neighbors. “I figured, I'm going to be designing something anyway, so if I can design something that can maybe help this business a little bit, it’s something that they can sell to bring some money in. Or, like doing this ‘Emporia Strong’ sticker and print; if I can design something that gives back and raises money for people who need it, especially now, in the community, then I’m designing something useful.” That’s how, in the midst of a growing global pandemic, Darcy came up with the idea for Emporia Strong. As local

colleges and school districts began to shut down to help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 virus in March, Darcy said he started thinking about students who would be going without meals throughout the week. At that time, it was unknown how long the shutdowns would last, so he started with a food collection. It didn’t seem like enough. He designed a logo — a bison pushing forward with the words “Emporia Strong” overhead and “Better Together” underneath — and sold stickers and prints. In all, they raised about $400 before stay-at-home orders forced the closure of local businesses. The support given to these types of causes is a source of fascination for Darcy, who is also one of the organizers of the No Coast Film Festival, which kicked off last year. The festival boasted 39 short films and 855 attendees, showcasing and

SUMMER 2020 | 61


celebrating independent filmmakers from around the world. For Darcy, it’s another way to give back to Emporia by bringing people together to celebrate the arts. In a way, Darcy credits his passion for community involvement to IM Design Group Owners Tracy Holroyd Weltha and Shawn

62 | EmpoRia Living

Honea. After getting approved for a work visa, Darcy took a job with IM Design Group. He’s now a brand strategist and graphic designer. “It really started with my work with IM Design,” Darcy said. “Shawn and Tracy, they are really engaged with the community and have really shown me what it is to be a part of the community. They really encouraged the staff to be a part of it, to join boards and get involved in stuff. A lot of our work, because we’re such a small community, is community focused and based in the community, so I got to know a lot of people and I just started loving this community and the people.”


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In uncertain times, there is one thing that is for certain. Local businesses need sound advice and positive thinking. Our community needs our local businesses to survive and that’s why we are “Open for Business”. LCSB and the Kansas Small Business Development Center work as a team to provide outstanding assistance to new and existing business owners alike. We’re focused on keeping Emporia open for business.

Visit your local branch or call 620.342.3525

Brad Yount

LCSB President

Russ Bonitatibus

LCSB Senior Vice President

Lisa Brumbaugh

Kansas SBDC Director

Profile for The Emporia Gazette

Emporia Living 2020  

Emporia Living 2020