Friends find niche to make homegrown business thrive
EMPORIA’S COACH BARRIER BREAKER Cheering for a healthier Emporia for more than 40 years
School district employee fills vital role for Emporia’s neediest students
There’s a lot behind the grocery checker’s smile and contagiously cheerful attitude
FALL 2019 | 1
2 | EMPORIA LIVING
SALLIE SPOTLIGHTS Area businesses and professionals share what's up and what's new in their line of work
18 CrossWinds Counseling and Wellness Innovative partnership with Emporia Public Schools 28 Haag Pharmacy Local pharmacy offers diabetes prevention program 36 Newman Regional Health Medical Partners Pediatrics and family care teams excel at Newman 48 Sunflower Gymnastics Strengthening the mind and body for all ages 54 ESB Financial Personal finance for kids
56 Fanestil Meats 2019 Holiday Specials 66 Stormont Vail Health Caring beyond the clinic
10 DAIRY QUEENS
78 XS Warehouse Name brand merchandise at discount prices
20 BARRIER BREAKER
86 Muckenthaler Incorporated Taking care of all your kitchen needs since 1970
Life on a dairy farm teaches girls valuable lessons
School resource specialist fills gaps in lives of Emporia kids
30 LOCAL LOVE
Local women weigh in on what “wellness” means to them
A look back at a career of making Emporia a healthier place to live
Music man and record-breaker has a thing for numbers
58 LORETTA’S LINE
IN HER OWN WORDS
40 EMPORIAS COACH
92 Midas Touch Golden Tans and Theta Yoga “When you feel good, you look good”
Friends find niche to make homegrown business thrive
There’s a reason why popular Wal-Mart checker is always smiling
HOME SWEET HOME
From Broken to Beautiful: Saving one of Emporia’s oldest homes
80 MOMMA’S COOKIN’
She may not be your Momma, but her hospitality and home-style cookin’ are just as good
IN SALLIE’S KITCHEN
Local ladies makes eating their vegetables easy and fun
58 FALL 2019 | 5
FROM the EDITOR Living Well Welcome to our seventh edition of Sallie Magazine! Ahhhh, the number seven. Often associated with perfection and good fortune, the number seven carries a bit of significance. I’m not sure if in our 7th year we are really doing everything perfectly here at Sallie Magazine, but we are most certainly beyond grateful for the good fortune we have been given to continue to produce this publication for seven consecutive years and bring these inspiring stories to your doorstep to enjoy. In this year’s Sallie you may notice a thread that weaves its way gently through a number of our features. It’s not something that was necessarily intentional on our part, but it is something that, as I read through our storyboard, I realized many of them shared: the idea of finding “wellness” in our lives through a variety of ways. From physical to mental, from social to spiritual, the idea of wellness is something we all (I hope!) strive for and want more of in our daily lives. We hear a lot about wellness these days. When I was much younger, I thought being healthy and well was all about the ratio between calories in and calories out. I remember spending so much energy on that ... and just being exhausted. I guess with age comes wisdom. Over the years I’ve come to understand that living a truly healthy life is about so much more: it’s about my overall lifestyle,
which includes my relationships, my mental health, my spiritual life, even my leisure time. (In fact, if you want a good book to read about why “slowing down” is such a necessary part of healthy living, check out “The Unhurried Life,” By Alan Fadling…..it was an eye-opener to me this past year about the devastating consequences of our non-stop, frantic lives that most of us have gotten really used to. I promise it will change the way you think about the pace of life today.) Many of the stories this year touch on wellness in one form or another and speak to the many factors that contribute to a well-lived life: For Stephanie Bosiljevac and Tara Davis (our cover story) it’s about a friendship and their love of creating that blossomed into a business and blessings to customers. For the Allen girls it’s about life on a farm and all the qualities that entails, from hard work to close family ties. For Barb Rourk, it’s about staying active and moving, and becoming a major force over the past 30 years in making Emporia a town that promotes healthy and active lifestyles. For Heather Wagner, her whole profession is about helping struggling students in Emporia just get basic needs met.
As you browse through Sallie, we hope you’ll find even more examples of how wellness can be incorporated into your daily life. Check out what the gals in “In Her Own Words” have to say (Pgs. 3839). And make sure to turn to our Sallie Spotlights and Sallie advertisers, many of which offer services that can help all of us live healthier, better, more well-lived lives. It’s a privilege to share the seventh edition of Sallie with you this year! All of us here at Sallie wish our readers a year filled with good fortune and abundance! Now, sit back, relax and enjoy this year’s edition of Sallie. It’s nice to see you again!
Ashley Walker Editor and Publisher
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the ADVERTISERS Adams Homestore �������������������������������������� 96 Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center ������������������������������ 64 Affordable Room Groups ���������������������������� 62 BLI Rentals, LLC���������������������������������������������� 8 Bluestem Farm & Ranch Supply ������������������ 34 Bobby D's Merchant St. BBQ���������������������� 74 Brian's Lawn Care���������������������������������������� 34 Brown-Bennett-Alexander Funeral�������������� 94 Brown's Shoe Fit Co������������������������������������ 83 C Allen For Your Doors�������������������������������� 63 Carpet Plus �������������������������������������������������� 25 Chase County Chamber of Commerce�������� 94 City of Emporia ������������������������������������������ 75 Coldwell Banker ������������������������������������������ 71 Commercial Street Diner������������������������������ 27 CrossWinds Counseling and Wellness����� 18 Davies Garden & Gifts���������������������������������� 27 Eclectic Bikes������������������������������������������������ 77 Elmdale Trading Post ���������������������������������� 94 Emporia Anesthesia Associates ������������������ 26 Emporia Arts Center������������������������73 and 77 Emporia Gazette������������������������������������������ 96 Emporia Granada Theatre���������������������������� 77 Emporia Main Street ���������������������������������� 15 Emporia Senior Center������� Inside Back Cover Emporia State University�������������������������������� 2 Emporia State University Memorial Union�������������������������������������������� 73 ESB Financial����������������������������������Back Cover ESB Financial������������������������������������������� 54 Evergreen Design Build�������������������������������� 16 Fanestils Meats��������������������������������������� 56 Farmers and Drovers Bank �������������������������� 96 First Start Pool and Patio ���������������������������� 62 First Start Rental Sales & Service ���������������� 27 Flint Hills Community Health Center����������� 34 Geo Tech, Inc.���������������������������������������������� 17 Gourmet To-Go Catering ���������������������������� 73 Granada Coffee Company �������������������������� 77 Grand Central Hotel & Grill ������������������������ 94 Griffin Real Estate���������������������������������������� 17 Guzman Tree Service�������������������������������������� 9 Haag Pharmacy��������������������������������������� 28 Handlebars of Hope ������������������������������������ 84 Hannah Orthodontics���������������������������������� 25 Harry & Lloyd's �������������������������������������������� 95 Holiday Resort���������������������������������������������� 65 Jack's Lawn and Pool ���������������������������������� 77 Joseph Laudie Dental������������������������������������ 9 Kansas Foot Care ���������������������������������������� 83 Kansasland Bank������������������������������������������ 95
King Liquor Store ���������������������������������������� 17 Longbine Autoplaza �������������������������������������� 4 Lore & Hagemen, Inc.���������������������������������� 65 Lyon County History Center������������������������ 85 Lyon County State Bank ��������������Inside Cover Lyon County Title ���������������������������������������� 27 Marlin L. Flanagin, DDS�������������������������������� 15 Mel's Tire������������������������������������������������������ 17 Midas Touch Golden Tans and Theta Yoga��������������������������������������� 92 Middle Creek Tree House���������������������������� 94 Midwest Land Group�������������������������������������� 5 MLG Photography �������������������������������������� 73 Modern Air Conditioning Inc ���������������������� 25 Mr. G's Car Wash������������������������������������������ 35 MRSK Buildings ������������������������������������������ 26 Muckenthaler Incorporated��������������������� 86 Murphy Agri ������������������������������������������������ 94 NahVSkin������������������������������������������������������ 73 Newman Regional Health������������������������������ 6 Newman Regional Health Medical Partners ������������������������������������� 36 Nex-Tech Wireless���������������������������������������� 35 Olpe Chicken House������������������������������������ 73 Patricia A. Dorsey, Optometrist Family Eyecare������������������������ 77 Plumbing by Spellman �������������������������������� 17 Prairie & Pearls Western Boutique �������������� 25 Reflections Hair Salon���������������������������������� 73 Regional Development Association ������������ 76 Rolling Hills Bar and Grill������������������������������ 95 RV Doc �������������������������������������������������������� 65 S & A Telephone Company�������������������������� 95 Schankie Well Services �������������������������������� 95 Skywalkers Gymnastics�������������������������������� 15 Spring Street Retreat ����������������������73 and 94 State Farm Insurance, Pete Euler ������������������ 4 Stormont Vail Health������������������������������� 66 Studio 50-4�������������������������������������������������� 27 Sunflower Gymnastics����������������������������� 48 Sutherlands�������������������������������������������������� 24 The Sweet Granada�������������������������������������� 77 Thomas A Kriss, DDS������������������������������������ 47 Thomas Transfer and Storage���������������������� 83 Thompson Family Dental ���������������������������� 34 Tyson Fresh Meats������������������������������������������ 1 USD 284 ������������������������������������������������������ 94 Valerie's Gifts & Such ���������������������������������� 96 Wagners Automotive General Service �������� 95 Walmart Supercenter ���������������������������������� 61 Wash House Laundry������������������������������������ 15 Williams Automotive ���������������������������������� 35 XS Warehouse����������������������������������������� 78
EDITOR & PUBLISHER ASHLEY WALKER ART DIRECTOR KELSEY QUINTANA ADVERTISING DIRECTOR SHERRI GROWDEN WRITERS RYANN BROOKS LINZI GARCIA MELISSA LOWERY BOBBI MLYNAR PHOTOGRAPHY JASON DAILEY DAVE LEIKER DESIGN & LAYOUT JANELLA WILLIAMS ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVES CASSI OLINGER ALEXIS ROCKERS KERI WALDNER ADVERTISING DESIGN DAN FERRELL MARGIE MCHALEY DANIA ORELLANA COPY EDITORS ZACH HACKER ASHLEY WALKER ONLINE facebook.com/emporialiving For more information, please contact: 517 Merchant Street Emporia, KS 66801 620-342-4800 Sallie is a publication of
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By Ryann Brooks Photography by Jason Dailey and Dave Leiker
12 | EMPORIA LIVING
Council Grove family sticks together on the farm
FALL 2019 | 13
t’s the middle of the night on the Allen Family farm. While some teenagers may be just coming in from a night out with friends, the Allen sisters are just getting up — to go to work. Every morning at 3 a.m., the Allen girls take turns going out to the barn to milk their cows. (And then, 12 hours later at 3 p.m., they do it all over again.) It’s something they have done nearly every day for the past seven years since their family took over a dairy business from a retiring farmer. It was a leap of faith, but it was one that Megan, Maddy and Kyla, along with parents Mary and Rich Allen, took together. “We got sold on the idea for our health to drink raw milk and we found a dairy farm in Eskridge and joined a group of other families who would go and get milk from them,” Mary said, stirring fresh cream into a mug of piping hot coffee. “He decided to take the winter off in 2011,
It was around that time the man from Eskridge decided he no longer wanted to keep his dairy going. The Allens purchased his equipment, his cows and inherited a group of customers just waiting for the chance to bring home a gallon of fresh, raw milk. “We would hear these stories from people about how they had always been lactose intolerant until they started to drink raw milk,” Megan said. “They were lactose intolerant for, like, 30 years and then, all of a sudden, they were able to drink milk again.” Mary said that’s part of the magic of raw milk. Raw — or unpasteurized — is milk that has not been processed. It contains all of the natural fats and its own natural anti-microbial system that protects from dangerous pathogens. The enzymes present in raw milk, Mary said, helps people with sensitive digestive systems process the milk.
and we were like, ‘Where are we going to get our milk? We have to have our raw milk.’ So I found a dairy in another town, but it just wasn’t the same quality. Then, Rich said, ‘Well, I’ve always wanted some milk cows.’” It was something that Rich, who has always worked various jobs in agriculture, had brought up several times over the years. He often worked with cattle on other ranches, but never had any of his own. Mary said she had been hesitant to take the leap, knowing they would be giving up the freedom of taking their girls on road trips and campouts. Still, their farm, located about halfway between Dunlap and Council Grove in rural Morris County, tucked away in the meandering of the Flint Hills, was perfectly suited for it. “We already had the land and the barn,” Mary said. “We were mostly focused on horses back then, and we raised border collies as stock dogs. We never had cows.”
The Allens say that some of the biggest misconceptions about raw milk is that people think it is unclean or dangerous. Part of that misconception, Mary said, is based around a misunderstanding of why milk is pasteurized today. “The reason they started pasteurizing milk is, in the 19th century Louis Pasteur was working with wine and it wasn’t used for milk,” Mary said. “But with the urbanization of America, everybody's moving to these big cities and there's no small farmer down the road that will sell you his milk. So, they started moving these big feedlot type dairies to the edges of cities. And they also were making — they had these alcohol distilleries in the big cities and so they were feeding the animals the byproduct of those distilleries, and they called them ‘distillery dairies.’” Those cows were getting sick because of a poor diet, and in turn, their milk became unsafe to drink raw. As long as
“We've seen from our customers so many amazing testimonials ... that is the impetus for us to keep doing it.
14 | EMPORIA LIVING
you keep your dairy producers healthy, Mary said, the milk will be high-quality and nutritious. “They just fed these cows all this junk,” she said. “That’s how it became so widespread.” When cows are kept healthy and happy, they produce milk with which it is safe to drink and cook. And, in some cases, can even be consumed by those with certain milk intolerances. “The reason for that is really interesting because with raw milk, all the enzymes are still present that will help break down all the lactose,” she said. “Whereas, when it's pasteurized, it kills off those enzymes that help the body digest lactose. So, for some people that need that lactase enzyme to digest, those aren't getting killed off.” What people are getting with pasteurized milk is a lot of “dead bacteria” which trigger allergic responses. Seeing how the milk benefited their own family made the decision to jump into the dairy business fairly easy to make. Today, the Allens have one of the only locally-owned dairies in Kansas, providing raw cow’s and goat’s milk to a steadily growing customer base from all over the Flint Hills. It’s not an overly lucrative business — the Allens strive to break even each year — but it’s something about which they are all passioniate. “We've seen from our customers so many amazing testimonials of what it's done for them — that is the impetus for us to keep doing it,” Mary said. “Even if it's not making us rich, because it's definitely a small profit margin as far as the work that goes into it.” The Allens have four milk cows: Maggie, a Guernsey; and Josie, Connie and Sassy, all Jerseys. Mary said they typically have three girls milking at a time, with a fourth on a rotating maternity leave. Their bull, Romo, is a Hereford who helps with the maternity rotation, to help keep the girls healthy and producing milk safely. “I think what helps is that we are small and everything comes from healthy milking cows who are being fed a healthy diet,” Mary said. “We had all of these families that were all, ‘We want in!’ and we were actually closer for a lot of them, so it was really a win-win situation,” Mary said.
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The family recently added three nanny goats to their farm at Kyla’s insistence: an Alpine named Maria; a Toggenburg named Eza; and an Oberhasli named Hacienda. But, without the hard work of every member of the household, none of this would be possible. The Allens have always been a close family, with Mary homeschooling the girls. It was a decision they came to after a lot of prayer, she said. Neither she nor Rich were homeschooled, both going through public schools themselves. “We really felt like God wanted us to homeschool, that that was a lifestyle choice that we needed to do,” Mary said. “So, by the time Megan was in kindergarten, we just pretty much decided, ‘Let's go ahead and try it.’ And it has been such a reward. It's such a blessing to see and to have all the family together. Definitely being on a farm, you rely on each other so much, and the kids really are part of the team.” For the girls, homeschooling was a good opportunity to allow them to branch out and explore their interests while still following a strong educational curriculum. “I loved being able to branch off and explore, because I didn’t have to be in school from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. every day,”
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Megan said. “I could go to school early or late and get my chores done, and I could take some time to go help a neighbor free up their cattle. To me, that was really fun and really cool to be able to see those things and be able to broaden my horizons as a kid, to be self-motivated.” Megan, now 22, earned a degree in graphic design from Flint Hills Technical College in 2017 after completing high school. She now works as an instructor for that program. It’s something she loves doing, and something she might not have discovered so quickly if she had attended traditional, brick-and-mortar schools. “It was really cool to see how my schooling prepared me for my college education and career,” she said. “There were things that I thought were kind of common knowledge, like work ethic, being able to get up early and learning to make work enjoyable. I felt like it really shaped my work ethic and my personal motivation to stay my best. I will never really feel 100 percent at home if I’m not on a farm.” Maddy, 19, has always enjoyed helping out at the farm more while her sisters and mother headed off to markets. “I really enjoyed being homeschooled, you know, it was awesome,” she said. “But you get to the point where you were inside so long reading a book, doing your work, that you just had to go outside to get your mind cleared and like, working with the animals outside was just kind of how I would relax.” “The thing about growing up on a farm is, everyone has to pitch in,” Megan said. “I don't ever remember there being any sort of a negative connotation with it, because it was always — it was also really cool because at four o'clock every day we knew where we were going to find the whole family. You know someone is going to be on the farm pitching in somewhere.” Kyla, the youngest, said she couldn’t imagine growing up any other way. “There’s always a sense of togetherness,” she said. “It’s always felt like a team effort. Everybody has a job.”
Most importantly, the family has each other. The Allen sisters are all talented musicians, with other interests on top of that, performing as a group for church gatherings, farmer’s markets and other events. Guitars, mandolins and ukuleles are often heard in the house as well. “Our family is pretty close,” Megan said. “We definitely have spats as siblings,” Maddy added, eliciting a giggle from her sisters. “But, I think the cool thing is that we do know that we need each other. We’re always doing jobs together.” Mary agreed. “They really have all grown up that way, and that's one reason we got into the dairy farm,” Mary said. “If the girls were grumpy about something, we would be like, ‘Cowgirl up or go sit in the truck. We don't need to complain.’ They've learned to skip lunch and not complain because we're going to get this done and then we'll go relax at two o'clock in the afternoon; we'll be fine. And they're just very resilient.” As the girls get older, things have started to change. Megan now lives in Emporia, though she comes back to the farm often. Maddy is figuring out her next step, now that she’s done with high school, and Kyla will be done soon, too. But, there’s one thing that will never change. “I will always knowwhere Mom and Dad are two times a day,” Megan said. “No matter what, if I need someone to talk to or if I need a rest, I know I can come home.”
20 | EMPORIA LIVING
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Go-Getter. Passionate. Fixer. Determined. These are all words that describe Heather Wagner and what makes her the perfect fit for her job description.
By Ryann Brooks Photography by Jason Dailey
22 | EMPORIA LIVING
Nineteen kids inspired a wide-reaching program for Emporia Public Schools that has changed how the district interacts with students in need, living with homelessness or without a solid support system at home.
eather Wagner, the district’s student and family resource specialist who has been with USD 253 for more than 17 years, said then-Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning George Abel had suggested she sit in on a conference call discussing McKinney-Vento. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 is a United States law that provides federal money for homeless shelter programs. Wagner, whose background is social work, had not been familiar with the program. The call opened her eyes. “Nineteen was the number of kids I could think of off the top of my head that would qualify as homeless based on the McKinney-Vento program,” Wagner said. Homelessness, she said, looks different than people might expect. “What does it mean when people say you're homeless?” she said. “They think, ‘Oh, we don't have homeless people in Emporia.’ But we do, and you have to really go by the guidelines and understand what those mean and what they are.” Wagner said homelessness is the kid who doesn’t have an adequate nighttime residence. It’s the kid that has to stay with relatives or friends, moving around every few weeks. It’s the kid that doesn’t have stability. “You have to have an understanding to what those kids are going through,” she said. “So, I always describe it like, if you go to your favorite relative’s house and you're there, you love it, you're excited. How long are you there before you're ready for your own routine in your own bed and your own place in your own space and all of your own belongings? These kids don’t have that.”
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I kind of think of myself as a resource manager. I help them to figure out what resources we have in our community, and then, if it’s a basic need that I can address immediately, that’s going to remove barriers to education.
Wagner is a self-described go-getter, who wants to fix a problem as soon as she identifies it. That initial realization of what was happening within the district soon turned into a clothing drive, but she soon realized that wasn’t enough. “I had a student that got referred by his English teacher who said, ‘I want you to check in on him. He needs this class. It’s senior English. He's always late or not here. I know something's going on, but he won't tell me.’” Wagner said. “So, being on the board for Food for Students, I just had a bag with me on purpose and I asked him, ‘What's happening? Why aren't you here? We care about you, we want you to get your education.’ And he said, ‘Well, my cell phone broke and it’s my alarm clock. And so, without that, I never wake up.’ And I said, ‘OK, so I can get you an alarm clock; that's no problem at all.’” Wagner gave him an extra bag of food over the weekend and on Monday had an alarm clock waiting for him.
24 | EMPORIA LIVING
“I said, ‘If the sky's the limit, you can ask me for absolutely anything in the world. What do you need to be successful?’” Wagner said, tearing up. “And he said, ‘I really need a toothbrush and toothpaste.’ This is a senior high school boy and he said a toothbrush and toothpaste. And that was the point. We are not doing enough if we can't have our kids coming to school ready and all they need is a toothbrush and toothpaste. We're not doing enough.” From there, Wagner knew what had to be done. She talked to former EHS Principal Britton Hart, to Abel, to thenSuperintendent Theresa Davidson. Washers and dryers were installed at the high school so kids without access at home could come to school with clean clothes. “That’s really how I describe my job is, removing barriers to education so kids can be successful,” she said. “I kind of think of myself as a resource manager. I help them to figure out what resources we
have in our community, and then, if it's a basic need that I can address immediately, that's going to remove barriers to education. That's obviously going to be my goal. And that looks different for every student. You just never know what that's going to be.” Some students might need a jacket to wear outside during recess. Another might need shoes because theirs have holes in the bottom. Some kids might not have the means to purchase toiletries, deodorant or shampoo. The impact on the students has been enough to keep the program going and evolving over the years. “The resources helped me relieve (the) stress and worry that I had,” wrote one student. “I am involved in sports and clubs, so the lack of food supplies I had made it more difficult to focus. For example, going to away competitions for basketball was extremely stressful when there [are] away games mostly every week.
We ate at fast food, but $10-20 every week is a financial burden to have and I didn’t have snacks, either. For the past three years, I did not eat lunch often because I had many lunch fees that I could not pay off. With the help of Mrs. Wagner, I now have free lunch.” Other students say they had no one else to turn to, or felt judged when they would ask for help at other agencies. Wagner and other district staff and teachers made them feel supported and welcomed. “The other food pantries in town made me feel judged because I was asking for help and they would always ask, ‘Don't you receive food stamps?’” a student said. “I would respond with, ‘No, I don't qualify,’ and with Heather, there were no questions and no judging. I feel very comfortable with Heather.” “Some students don't have everything they actually need,” another student said. “It is really helpful when the school is able to meet their students' needs.”
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Wagner said it’s important to help students so they can succeed. “I'm very passionate about that, because education is the number one way to prevent homelessness and to break that cycle — that generational cycle of poverty,” Wagner said. “I just feel like if we can do everything in our power to make their education the best, then we are giving them a gift that will continue to benefit them the rest of their lives.” Today, Wagner identifies between 30 - 50 students each year who need those services, but says she sees at least twice that many throughout the year. Part of why those other students might be identified as having a need is because, on paper, their families don’t qualify for assistance. “If you think about how we screen our DCF services or for free and reduced meals, everyone wants to know what your income is, but no one ever asks what your debt is,” Wagner said. “So, if you've had a major medical expense or something like that, you could make enough that you should not be under the poverty guidelines, but they don't take that into account.”
I’m proud that we are going above and beyond. That’s why Wagner is so proud of what they have been able to accomplish with the school district. “It makes me super proud of our district because it's something that, do we have to do it? No,” she said. “But because we're doing it, are we making everything better for kids? Absolutely. I am very passionate about it, and I feel like it's a necessity, but I also know that in the grand scheme of things, when you're talking about education budgets and how tight they are, it's not something that we have to do. “I go to meetings and I go to conferences and I just kind of listen to what other districts are doing and I'm just so proud. I'm proud that we are going above and beyond, because every single thing that we provide is only giving back to those kids tenfold. It's very important, and again, without the community, it wouldn't be happening, because we wouldn't have those resources in order to provide for them.”
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Friends find niche to make homegrown business thrive tephanie Bosiljevac and Tara Davis had no idea that a friendship between their young daughters would lead them to coowning a flourishing business together. Tara and Steph grew up in Emporia, but didn't really get to know each other until their daughters became fast friends in preschool. The girls wanted to be together “all the time,” which meant their mamas were also spending a lot of time together. Both women are avid crafters and would bring along projects to work on while their girls played. From there, a business idea emerged. “We were both doing things on our own for friends and our husbands said, 'Why don't you work together?'” Tara recalls. After asking a lot of questions, doing a lot of research and listening to advice from Seth Davis, Tara's husband and business partner as co-owner of Orange Leaf, the duo launched Simply Blessed Mamas in March 2018. Simply Blessed Mamas offers custom boutique items such as T-shirts, signs, flags, banners and more for personal use, other businesses, teams and organizations. Their vinyl signage can be seen on the walls of Newman Regional Health, several lucky teachers received personalized clipboards for Teacher Appreciation Week and their customized T-shirts have adorned everyone from bridal parties to grandchildren to sports teams to traveling companions.
By Melissa Lowery Photography by Dave Leiker
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CREATING A HOMETOWN BUSINESS One secret to the success of Simply Blessed Mamas is the hyperlocal focus. Although they do ship their items, and have an increasing customer base outside of Emporia, the products and designs are customized to schools, organizations, events and local trends.
Steph and Tara are both from Emporia, both were active in sports during school and both are involved in the community. As a result, they can create items that feel more custom to Emporia and the surrounding towns than a company located in another city or state can do. “I think it helps people feel confident because they know us and we know the area,” Steph said. Jeannie Jenkins, a retired teacher, said it is this local focus that draws her to Simply Blessed Mamas. She has several items, including custom signs for her yard, handpainted by Tara. “It's important to me to buy local as much as I can rather than buy things on Etsy, for example. It's so important to do that when I can,” Jeannie said. “I watched Tara and Steph grow up from little girls. I think it's neat that they came together as friends and young moms to do this and have it be so successful.” CREATING THEIR NICHE Some of the hottest Simply Blessed Mamas products are the limited edition items that go on sale every Tuesday via the company's Facebook page. Steph and Tara hit on the idea shortly after they started the business, looking for ways to carve out their own niche. “A couple of months after we launched, we were looking for something to do weekly to set ourselves apart,” Tara said. “We'd seen these vinyl earrings at boutiques in Kansas City and other places and thought, ‘We can make those and offer them at a much lower price.’” Each Tuesday at 5 p.m., a new item is posted on the Simply Blessed Mamas Facebook page with a price and quantity available. Most Tuesdays, the item is a pair of earrings in fun shapes and colors, sometimes supporting a theme like the bicycle print offered during Dirty Kanza
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“It’s about making meaningful things, and that means having a connection with your customers.”
week or the heartbeat print offered for Nurse Appreciation Week. Dubbed “Trendy Tuesday,” the idea quickly caught on and took on a life of its own. “We have people who have alarms set on their phones for 5 p.m. on Tuesdays so they can log on to Facebook and get a pair of earrings before they sell out,” Tara said. “It's crazy,” Steph added. “We even have one loyal customer who was going to be on a plane at that time and asked if she could get a sneak peek of that week's design so she wouldn't miss out!” The pair are always on the lookout for new ideas, whether that be on social media or seeing a T-shirt “in the wild” with a fun saying or design. They also welcome customers bringing them examples they would like customized. “We can recreate almost anything,” Steph said. “Although most of the time we are able to purchase the pattern from the creator, which saves us a lot of time. Then we put it on a T-shirt or sign or tumbler or whatever the customer wants. Tara recently customized a graduation cap for an ESU graduate that turned out really well.” “That was fun,” Tara said. “It said 'Latina Rising' on the top with lots of color. She [the graduate] wanted something special and it was fun to work with her to create it. Anything you ask us to put a design on, we'll try!” CREATING A POSITIVE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE Kari Hess was one of Simply Blessed Mamas' first customers, connecting with Tara before the business formally launched. She asked Tara to hand-letter some signs for her using Tara's distinctive script — “We call it, 'Tara font,'” Steph laughs — then teamed up to design and create items for Laps for Landon and other events. The success of Simply Blessed Mamas doesn't surprise Kari, though. Her experience with Tara and Steph has been nothing but positive. “They've both gone above and beyond for me,” she said. “Every time I've called on them, they've gotten whatever I need fairly quick. I'm so happy to see their business thriving, because they take pride in their work, it's not just about making money. I think that speaks volumes about their character. You can tell that they're genuine individuals who care about people.”
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Customer service is a priority for Simply Blessed Mamas, but sometimes ensuring excellent customer service means pushing pause on marketing efforts. In addition to being wives, moms and entrepreneurs, Steph and Tara each have other careers. Steph is a teacher at Timmerman Elementary while Tara co-owns Orange Leaf and is a substitute teacher. With so many demands on their time, these businesswomen occasionally need to slow down demand for their boutique items. “We know if we post on Facebook, the orders will start coming in, so when we need to get caught up, we'll take a break from posting for a week or so,” Steph said. The side-hustle-turned-full-timebusiness means a lot of late nights and enlisting husbands and children to help. “Sometimes we have our husbands help with the heat presses,” Tara said. “And our girls like pulling the backing and extra pieces off the vinyl, so they'll put their little fingers to use for us.” Because so much of what they create is made to order, working ahead isn't always feasible. But when they can build up inventory in advance, such as for their special edition earrings or holiday T-shirts, Steph and Tara use their time wisely. “Over the school breaks we'll get a bunch of our Trendy Tuesday earrings
done, get them all ready to go, get the posts scheduled on Facebook,” Steph said. “I think customers appreciate our fast turnaround, so we try to stay on top of everything.” CREATING THE FUTURE As demand grows, production space has become an issue. The Davises are building a new home, and part of it will include a workspace for Simply Blessed Mamas. “We'll be able to have both heat presses there, our Cricuts, our materials and inventory, plus more space to spread out and work,” Tara said. “It's going to be so nice.” For now, Simply Blessed Mamas intends to stick with its local focus. Business is steady and the trade-off for opening an Etsy store, for example, is more than Steph and Tara are willing to do right now. “Our turnaround time would have to be longer,” Steph said. “And we feel strongly that our quick turnaround is important.” “This is already a full-time job,” Tara added. “We love it and we want to continue to love it and make meaningful things for people.” “That's it,” Steph agreed. “It's about making meaningful things, and that means having a connection with your customers. I feel like we have that here in Emporia.”
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Simply Blessed Mamas co-founders Stephanie Bosiljevac and Tara Davis learned a lot when opening their business, and they're happy to share that knowledge with other budding entrepreneurs. “We've had several friends who've gone on and started their own businesses in places like Kansas City and Hutchinson, and we've helped them,” Steph said. “We have the attitude that we rise by lifting others. There's room for everyone to be successful.” HERE ARE SOME OF THEIR TIPS: • Ask a lot of questions. “We asked lots and lots of questions of other business owners, particularly crafting business owners. We are members of several crafting Facebook groups and we used them as a resource a lot.” • Make sure you have someone keeping up on the business side of things. “We're both very creative, but running a business requires paying attention to less creative things like filing paperwork, tracking costs and inventory, paying taxes — we get a lot of help from [Tara's husband] Seth, who helps us keep the business side of things running smoothly.”
• Make customer service a top priority. “We live by 'The customer is always right.' We want people to be 100 percent happy with our products, so we make sure we're clear on what they want and ensure the best quality results. We also try to produce orders quickly so our customers aren't waiting for their special items.” • Find something that makes your business unique. “Our Trendy Tuesday limited edition offers really helped set us apart. The items are very affordable and help people get to know our business and our customer service. They usually become repeat customers.”
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Throughout this year’s Sallie, readers may notice the subtle
thread of “wellness” that weaves its way through our feature stories. Even though we often think of wellness as just “the absence of disease or sickness,” it means so much more. From physical to mental, spiritual to emotional, even financial, intellectual and social wellness are all important pieces to create optimal health. Sallie asked five local women, from different backgrounds and experiences, to weigh in on what “wellness” means to them.
Working out incessantly, counting calories, restrictions, losing weight… Isn’t this kind of what we think of when we think about “wellness?” We think of beating our bodies into submission so we can look like we did when we were 22. But what if wellness is something completely different? What if it means we actually HONOR our bodies by choosing whole foods and movement? After doing at least a million workout programs, eating plans and diets over the last 20 years, finally, in my late 30s, I have discovered that it’s NOT about the number on the scale! Now don’t get me wrong, setting a goal always motivates you to change, but your goal should be MORE than a number! It should be to FEEL good, have energy and keep learning. To me, this simply means that I am committed to being a better me tomorrow than I am today. I don’t have to always be in the middle of an intense workout regimen and eating plan, but I choose to move somehow every day, and make smart eating choices MOST of the time. (Doesn’t that sound better than exercise and diet?!) We’ve been told for years that you go on a diet, lose X pounds and somehow you’ve arrived. But then what?! Diets don’t last forever. I think the secret is that there IS no ending — the beauty is in the journey. When I am committed to healthy living, everything else falls into place. It’s easier to “find time” each day to pray and study, I am more diligent in my home and my business and I’m more intentional in my relationships. Wellness IS worth the journey!
WELLNESS IS… …multi-dimensional. So many health components come together to comprise overall wellness; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, environmental factors, stress, social engagement and other factors all help determine a person’s overall state of wellness. Wellness is not simply freedom from illness or disease, but an all-encompassing measure of individual well-being in each of these areas. …in our control. Science tells us that our lifestyle behaviors are powerful tools. We can choose to harness these tools to promote longevity and health, thus reducing the risk for just about every disease known to man. Physical activity, proper nutrition, socialization, cognitive engagement, stress management and quality sleep can help stave off ailments from arthritis to dementia. …not a one-size-fits-all characteristic. There isn’t a perfect recipe that defines what wellness should look like. It is important to keep this in mind when we attempt to embark upon acts of self-improvement. Start where you are, and compare your progress against your baseline, not against other individuals. Celebrate each small victory as you make healthy changes. …more than skin deep. We are surrounded by images in the media of what health and wellness are “supposed” to look like. But wellness is so much more than physical appearance. We have all been given unique talents and strengths that make us who we are. Those qualities, along with our genes, have a dramatic impact on our wellness. What if, instead of trying to become what society tells us is “healthy,” we focused on using our unique gifts and strengths to positively impact the world around us? What a beautiful picture of wellness that would be!
Age: 37 Occupation: Homemaker and Norwex lady Children: 2 beautiful babes, Summer, 10 and Oliver, 7 Spouse: Married for 15 amazing years to the one and only Steven Bazan! Free time: I love to read! I also just love spending time with my family, cuddled up on the couch watching movies.
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Age: 36 Occupation: Rural LEAP! Coordinator for the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center (concluded end of June) Health and Human Performance Instructor / Assistant Track and Field Coach (2019 will be our 11th season at ESU!) Children: Matthew - 10 months Spouse: Steve Blocker Free time: I love being outside — gardening, hiking, running. I feel most at peace when I am in nature. I enjoy crafting and am always whipping up new creations, most of which I test on Matthew! The perfect evening would probably involve a family hike or long walk with our little man, sharing a Mediterranean platter (our favorite Summer meal!) with Steve and enjoying a good glass of wine on the back patio (with the little guy peacefully sleeping through the night!)
Age: 32 Occupation: Dermatology Nurse Practitioner Children: Raylon, age 5; Maren Jo, age 3; Rex, 8 months Spouse: Michael Ratcliff Free time: Enjoying the outdoors with my husband and three children! I love to cook, do home improvement projects and craft (whenever I find the time).
Being a healthcare provider, obviously, wellness brings to mind many thoughts circling around one’s health. But I wear many other hats besides my professional one — wife, mother, friend. Wellness is a continual exercise of deliberation. My “Type A” personality calls for perfection, which in my professional role is necessary, but in my family life causes undue stress. Wellness, for me personally, is the feeling of comfort in my own skin and finding joy in each moment. Most recently, pulling weeds with my 4 year old, chatting about the day, was the best feeling of wellness I had experienced in some time. It could have been so easy for me to stress about getting it all done fast, that my shorts felt too tight bent over the garden or worried about the basket of laundry waiting for me inside. By choosing to be there in that moment, I found the greatest joy! We talked about the most recent days, what he loves about summer, and laughed at silly stories he told of he and his sister from the day before with the sitter. It was a moment that wasn’t documented on social media for the world to see. I didn’t receive any “likes” for this moment, but my heart was exploding! Staying mindful to find comfort in my own skin and joy in each moment with my family and friends, though a constant exercise for me, is where I find wellness.
Age: 45 Occupation: Human Resource Manager, Leadership Coach/Facilitator Children: One son, Sam, 19 Spouse: Joe Russell Free time: Cooking, laughing with friends, supporting my husband in his races, watching all of the true crime documentaries!
I always thought of wellness as a physical state — health, exercise, weight loss. Maybe a ‘dash’ of mental health sprinkled on top. The Babes On Bikes? Yeah, that’s me! Cycling helped me stay active, and our rides being a social event didn’t hurt, either. Riding bikes and encouraging others to ride has been a passion for years. Our motto is, “Inspiring women, one pedal stroke at a time!” I took for granted my relative health. Annual checkups were done every few years. All but that yearly mammogram. For some reason, I have done those religiously for six years. I blame my friend Linda — we go together and make a day of it! This last December, that practice changed my ideas about my own wellness completely. “More images are needed.” “There’s an area we’d like to biopsy.” “I’m sorry Mrs. Russell, you have breast cancer.” Now, it’s not just about simple physical wellness; it’s the full package, body and mind. It’s easy to get those annual checkups. The mental wellness is much more difficult. This spring has been an exercise in vulnerability. I have learned to feel the love and be grateful, grateful for friends and family and wonderful doctors and nurses. Only 1 in 8 women diagnosed with breast cancer has any family history. Did you know that? I certainly didn’t. I am thankful I have been given this opportunity to increase awareness of the importance of annual mammograms. On December 28, 2018, mine saved my life.
Age: 63 Occupation: Dietitian at Newman Regional Health Children: Drew-35; Austin-33; Alex 31; Noelle-27; Natalie-25 Spouse: Scott Waters Free time: read, knit, have coffee dates with friends, watch old movies.
In my job as a clinical dietitian, improved wellness is a goal for each of my patients. Here’s my approach: I gather Subjective information from my patient such as: current appetite, eating habits, food likes/dislikes, personal goals regarding nutrition and Objective information such as: diagnosis, lab values, medications ordered height/weight and medical history. I Assess that information and work with the patient to come up with a Plan and GOALS. My notes on a patient might look like this: S: Poor appetite for 6 months while undergoing chemotherapy. Patient describes losing weight and would like to regain. O: 76-year-old male; Height: 6’0”; Weight: 160 pounds (today) 180 pounds (6 months ago) Diagnosis: Thyroid Cancer; Final chemotherapy completed last week. A: Involuntary weight loss related to side-effects of chemotherapy as evidenced by patient’s report and prior admission weight records. Patient may benefit from calorie-dense foods multiple times daily, gradually increasing portion sizes as he’s able to tolerate. P: 1. Provide education to patient regarding calorie and nutrients-dense options, discuss food preferences and help him develop a plan. 2. Recommend start with small portions at meals plus snacks three times/day. GOALS: 1. 75-100% intake at most meals and snacks. 2. Weight gain of ½-1 pound/week. 3. Gradual increase to regular portion sizes at meals during the next 4 - 6 weeks. (unstated goal: WELLNESS!) When I’m off the clock my husband Scott and I both (mostly) watch our food portions and exercise for physical wellness; (usually) communicate well for relational wellness; fairly consistently keep a budget for financial wellness; spend time with our kids and grandkids to nurture family wellness; and maintain involvement in our faith communityfor spiritual wellness. FALL 2018 | 41
By Bobbi Mlynar Photography by Jason Dailey 42 | EMPORIA LIVING
If there were a poster child for lifetime fitness and fun, surely it would be Barb Rourk.
ourk, wellness supervisor for the Emporia Recreation Commission, will end her career there on Oct. 31. She had begun as an ERC playground supervisor on July 1, 1999, the day after she ended almost 20 years as manager and owner of the Magic Mirror fitness club. Few Emporians have not been touched in some way by Rourk’s leadership, organizational skills and participation in events sponsored not only by the ERC, but though organizations for children, local health agencies, the Kansas State Extension Service, school districts, churches, walks and runs for charities and much more. In 2006, she was inducted into the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Hall of Fame, in recognition of her contributions to and prominence in the field of recreation and fitness. “I didn’t really realize I was that busy, because I enjoy what I am doing,” Rourk said. “It was quite an honor.”
But her passion for playing and being active started long before she turned it into a career. “I started playing sports when I was just a little kid,” she said. With six siblings and parents Robert and Marie Dreier all available and involved, she never lacked for workmates on the family’s dairy farm, nor did she lack for playmates when the chores and the homework were finished. All of the Dreier children stayed active in sports as adults; Barb took it to another level. As a student at Olpe High School, where youngsters traditionally excel in sports as well as in academics, Barb Dreier and her classmates enjoyed having physical education classes as part of their school day. They had been disappointed that only freshmen and sophomores could enroll in PE. “Our class asked to have PE our junior and senior year, too, and we got it,” Rourk said. “We had an awesome student teacher that year. We learned lifetime games” instead of the usual PE offerings. Dance, handball and other activities opened the door and introduced Rourk to a trove of fun ways to keep the body moving. FALL 2019 | 43
Meanwhile, Congress had passed Title IX to bring equity for female athletes in 1972, just in time for Rourk to join the volleyball and track teams. “The first year, we took second in state in volleyball,” she said. MAJOR CHANGE AHEAD Rourk went on to higher education at Emporia State University, where she “took probably every PE class up there,” even though her initial major was psychology. She participated in intramural sports and the Play Factory — flag football, volleyball, basketball, rugby, in her spare time — and played on Emporia State’s and Oklahoma State’s traveling teams. “On weekends, we had to stand in line to be able to play racquetball,” Rourk said. Soon, Rourk was re-evaluating her career plans. While she found psychology interesting, she also realized that not all of her students would be willing participants. That disturbed her. “I wanted to help people who want help,” Rourk said. “The nice thing about exercise is that you can’t force it on anybody. They have to want to do it. I want to do it.” The stars aligned to simplify her decision: She already had a load of PE classes accumulating on her transcript and ESU was offering its first major in 44 | EMPORIA LIVING
recreation. Six students, including Rourk, enrolled and became involved in setting up the structure of the new program. “We sat down with the advisors and figured out what we needed,” she said, naming business, finance, psychology, sociology, public speaking and more as essential to a degree in recreation. Along the way to her degree, Rourk also did some substitute teaching for Dr. John “Doc” Baxter at evening classes for the community, completed an internship at the ERC and, with Joe Kurzen, taught some Neosho River Free School classes, too. She volunteered to work for soccer, basketball, softball, volleyball and gymnastics tournaments. “I like to experience new stuff,” she explained. “I didn’t want to get stuck in one sport.” (She’s still experiencing “new stuff.” Her twin grandsons, aged 9, recently invited her to try one of their hover boards. “Yeah, I’ll try that,” she said, relating the incident later. “You’ll have regrets if you don’t try these things.” The experience didn’t end as well as it might have, she said, but she has no regrets.) AN IDEA BEFORE ITS TIME For a time, Rourk and Kurzen planned to open their own fitness club, to be named “BJ’s Fitness Fun Factory.” However, bankers were gazing into murky crystal balls when the pair sought financing for their enterprise. “Every bank we went to said, ‘No, I just don’t see that happening — people paying money to exercise,” Rourk recalled with a wry laugh. Job openings, though, were not plentiful in the recreation field when Rourk graduated in Dec. 1977, so she opted for a job related to athletics. She managed the sports department at the Emporia Woolco store for a time, until a friend mentioned that a ladies’ fitness company, Magic Mirror, headquartered in Oklahoma City, was advertising for an employee. “I interviewed for that,” Rourk said. “They hired me on the spot. They said there was this club in Ponca City, Oklahoma, that needed a manager.” Soon she was traveling for the company, training managers in four states for a year and a half, before being offered the manager’s job at Magic Mirror’s Emporia operation. In 1982, she bought the business, and the real fun began.
TRENDS COME AND GO Rourk entered the fitness club business as one quirky trend was winding down and new modes of exercise were gaining popularity. The local Magic Mirror then had been filled with massage rollers and vibrating belt machines that strapped around the midsection and shook patrons’ bodies until their flesh rippled. “Back in the 80s, that’s what they thought physical fitness was all about, breaking up the fat,” Rourk said. “The first thing I did when I bought Magic Mirror was to carry those things out of the club.” She hauled two of them home. “I only kept them because I thought I’d use the motors for something,” she explained, laughing at the memory. The then-trendy Roman chair machines, which focused on shaping up outer and inner thighs, and the Queen’s chair machines for dips and leg lifts also left the building. “And I wish that I’d kept the Roman chair,” she added. However, new types of exercising and training took center stage over the years. Activities like jazzercize, dancing, cardiokickbox, step aerobics, cross-training, treadmills, stationary bikes, jungle gyms with four weight stations, “Trim Time” classes and body-building all were among the activities considered effective for losing weight, toning muscles and developing healthier bodies. Some of the routines remain in use today, though the leotards, tights, headbands and leg warmers that had been de rigueur have dropped out of fashion. THE MAGIC IN MAGIC MIRROR Rourk took pleasure in helping others who wanted help staying fit and firm, but
the greatest pleasure she took away from the job were the warm friendships that formed among the Magic Mirror crowd. “Those ladies would get together and do lunches, pool parties and trips and, of course, I’d be part of them,” she said. Rourk brought in an array of diverse presenters to enhance the basic exercise classes — hair dressers, chiropractors, fashion shows and even a belly-dancing instructor from out-of-town were among the extra programs offered. She arranged for holiday parties, silent auctions, balloon drops with prizes and a Cutest Baby contest, where each member brought in her own baby photo, tagged it with a number, and hung it unidentified on the wall for others to vote on. “Connie Schrock Fry won,” Rourk added. Pranks sometimes came into play, too. Rourk grinned at the memory of someone dressed in a gorilla suit who charged through the front door during a class taught by Marty Foster. “(The gorilla) ran in and grabbed her while she was doing her class and carried her out,” Rourk said. The class, unfazed, continued exercising and Marty Foster was released unharmed. Rourk — still Dreier then — was the target for a surprise when Don Rourk dropped in unexpectedly at the club. The pair had been dating for a while, after being introduced, or re-introduced, at a local bowling alley.
“We’d played softball at the same time, but I didn’t remember him and he says he doesn’t remember me,” she said. The bowling alley meeting proved memorable, though, and when Don Rourk popped in at Magic Mirror, it was to propose to Barb Dreier in front of a room full of club members. She accepted. They’d not set a wedding date before a trip to Colorado that summer — Barb’s first vacation in 18 years — turned into an elopement. I’LL PENCIL YOU IN Don Rourk had already told Barb’s siblings back home that he planned to marry their sister once the couple reached Colorado Springs. Barb Dreier, however, had scheduled activities by the time he let her in on the plan. FALL 2019 | 45
“I said, ‘I don’t know if I have time,’” she reminisced. “’I have a whitewater ride and a horseback ride scheduled. I suppose if you could find a justice of the peace, we could get married in-between.’” Despite the added hurdles of her needing a rubella shot in a city that had come virtually to a halt for Colorado Day activities, the couple managed to exchange their wedding vows on Aug. 6, 1986. Rourk easily remembers the date as 8-6-86. “It also happens to be my birthday,” Rourk said, adding, “I’ve never been able to top that yet.” She gained an added bonus of two stepchildren and, much later, three grandchildren — twin grandsons, now 9, and a granddaughter, now 7. SETTLING IN AT ERC Rourk continued to own and operate Magic Mirror until 1999, when she got an offer she decided not to refuse. The ERC board of directors had been planning to add a fitness room in an old storeroom upstairs at the recreation center, said ERC Director Tom McEvoy, who at the time was assistant director under the late Lee Beran. “We needed somebody to run it,” McEvoy said. “I approached Barb at the 46 | EMPORIA LIVING
Magic Mirror about coming to work for us and running it, and she jumped at it.” Rourk closed Magic Mirror on June 30, 1999, and began work at the recreation center the following day. “She was the first and only wellness supervisor,” McEvoy said. “When she came on board, she got more people involved in things. “You know our motto is, ‘Active for Life,’ and I’ll tell you what, our vision has impacted thousands of people to stay active for life.” McEvoy encouraged her to look for “what’s coming up next that we need to try,” Rourk said, and to continue developing and expanding programs that emphasize healthy living and staying active and fit. As time passed, the fitness center outgrew its upstairs location and moved downstairs to the main floor into a newly remodeled, modern fitness center. “We want to focus on being healthy,” Rourk said. “As an overall group, we are becoming a little less active. That’s having a lot to do with electronics, whether it’s TV or tablets or phones, we’re becoming more sedentary. And it takes away from socializing.” But activity is only part of the equation. Despite new, sometimes extreme, diets, ready-made meals that seem to surface regularly and a variety of pills advertised to melt off excess weight, Rourk stands by the tried-and-true method for taking off pounds and keeping them off. “It all comes down to making the right choices,” Rourk said. “The hardest thing to do is to eat right and exercise.” Heaven knows, Rourk has been a role model for making the right choices. While her first dream was to become a coach — an urge she satisfied by volunteering as coach for ERC league teams — she has found deep satisfaction in helping others of all ages find their favorite ways to make those choices and more. Whether it’s specialty classes for the over-55 set, exercising in the fitness room, individual and group swimming, training for the Couch to 5K program and everything in-between, there’s something
on the ERC list of activities that will appeal to almost everyone. Rourk also offers games and activities for organized leagues, company picnics, church get-togethers or family gatherings. Croquet, baggo (corn hole), washers, bolo, bocce, horseshoes and Kubb are among the choices for groups needing offsite recreation and entertainment. Table tennis is making a comeback and pickleball has become a popular sport for all ages. Rourk — though galloping toward retirement — attended a meeting this summer on the viability of introducing a Granny Basketball program, too. She is especially fond of adding games to the roster; she creates them, too. “You give me a piece of equipment, and I’m going to invent a game,” she said. “I’ve got a back room that is filled with activities, games, I’ve made up.” She also has worked with Vickie Brooks for the American Heart Association and Heart Focus Clinic and demonstrated exercises at the Diabetes Fair, helped with Edventure Days at the David Traylor Zoo of Emporia, judged the Emporia Public Library’s worm races in the summer and worked at the annual Breakfast With Santa, manned an information area for children’s activities at Keep It a Safe Summer, partnered with the Kansas State Extension Service on the Walk Kansas project and organized games and activities for the annual Relay for Life. And that list barely scratches the surface of her efforts to keep people moving, healthy and well-versed in ways to achieve those goals. “One of the things she was really working on, and continues to work on, we call it, ‘Active Aging,’ working with programs that keep aging people active,” McEvoy said. Rourk instituted the Mystery Lunch Bunch, a program of ERC trips to restaurants in the region, as well as longer tours that range from excursions to Branson, Toronto, Nashville, Niagara Falls, San Antonio and beyond. It’s essential, she said, not only to keep the aging population physically active, but to offer opportunities for socializing to stay mentally active and alert. Rourk’s tours around the country on Diamond Tours buses have become an exceptionally popular piece of the program. Rourk escorts the groups on the
“It all comes down to making the right choices. The hardest thing to do is to eat right and exercise.” tours, and in recent years her sisters have joined in. “That’s really taken off,” McEvoy said. “We have a waiting list for a lot of trips and it’s all because of her and her promotion of it. People have a good time when she’s there and involved in things.” About 15 years ago, McEvoy suggested Rourk look into an event held in the Kansas City metro area, the Olathe Corporate Challenge. “I said, ‘Tom, this is a full-time job,’” Rourk recalled. The following year, she went in to McEvoy’s office with a change of heart. “Let me look at that Corporate Challenge again,” Rourk said. The event became successful immediately, and quickly grew to be one of Rourk’s favorite programs. It is so successful, in fact, that participation limits had to be set: only two teams per business and a maximum of 36 teams total. “I love that event!” she said. “It’s always given me an opportunity to introduce games I’d like to see.” And when she’s not busy shepherding the public toward wellness, she and Cindy Crisman don costumes to entertain
youngsters at private parties, area businesses, carnivals and charity events, with Rourk assuming the identity of Bubbles the Clown and Crisman as Rosie the Clown. RETIREMENT: A BUSY TIME “I don’t like to sit still,” she said. “That’s what scares me about retirement.” Perhaps to ensure that sitting and boredom don’t insinuate themselves into her routine, she already has outlined a mental to-do list, and it is lengthy. “I want to definitely spend more time with my grandkids,” she said, mentioning the first thing that came to mind. “I want to be more active in their lives.” Taking the honeymoon trip she and husband Don never had also holds a top priority. Sometimes during their married life, Barb Rourk worked days, while Don worked nights; there were few opportunities to carve out time together. Now, both Rourks will be able to travel leisurely together. He recently retired after working 17 years at the Lyon County Detention Center and later at Newman Regional Health. “I’d like to see the world,” she said, naming Australia and Germany as points
of particular interest. She’d like to take a cruise to Alaska, too. Kayaking, fishing and more bicycling also are on the list. She’d purchased a stationary bike to train for the Bike Across Kansas trip and has set her eyes on a different kind of route in retirement. “It was so much fun,” she said. “I’m glad I had that adventure, but if I ever bike across Kansas again, I want to do the Rails to Trails. “I have to learn to play my autoharp, because I go to the Winfield Bluegrass Festival. So there is a list. I want to do a really good zip line somewhere, too.” Of course, there will be the annual Sisters’ Trip, a tradition that she and her sisters began about 10 years ago. Joining a book club appeals to Rourk, too, as does volunteering at disc golf tournaments. Rourk plans to make time to work on landscaping and flower gardens at their home northeast of Emporia, “and try to get rid of 33 years of clutter,” she said. She’ll have no trouble filling the retirement hours, but the Active for Life siren’s song undoubtedly will lure her back to working out and playing games at the recreation center. FALL 2019 | 47
Barb Rourk Are there times you try to stay off your phone entirely? I seldom check my phone when I'm out camping or enjoying outdoor activities. Actually, it doesn't follow me around much, so I do miss calls and am late responding to texts. First app checked in the morning: I turn off my "Rooster Crow" wake-up alarm. Most used app: My emails, work and home
App you wish someone would invent: An animal speech translating app. My dogs talk to me constantly. It would be great to know what they are actually saying instead of me making up the conversation with them! Biggest time-wasting app: Phase 10 or Gin Rummy What's on your home screen and why? My grandkids, Nathan, Alex and Quinn, covered in balloon animals. How many photos are on your phone? Way too many, 781.
Favorite fitness app: myfitnesspal and Runkeeper Top 3 people you text: Denise, Cindy and my sisters, Alice and Donna First app you check in the morning and last before bedtime: I'll check for any text messages or emails, then check my calendar for upcoming events. At what battery percentage do you feel compelled to charge your phone? 20 percent 48 | EMPORIA LIVING
What social media app do you post most on? Hardly ever post, but if I do, it would be Facebook.
Favorite food/restaurant related app: I don't have any, will be checking them out! Favorite ringtone: Curve Ball Blend. Number of contacts on your phone: 411 Last photo you took with your phone: My niece, Korissa and her fiance, Kyle, making a "Duck" balloon animal.
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Man Thomas Silkman has a thing for numbers
Photography by Jason Dailey 52 | EMPORIA LIVING
hat may sound unusual for the owner of a music store, but for this music man, that’s much of what his business is built on. And, as if repairing hundreds and hundreds of oboes, trumpets, flutes, violins, and other brass, woodwind and stringed instruments isn’t enough to keep him busy throughout the course of a year, he also broke the Guiness Book of World Records in 2018 for number of guitar strings changed and tuned in one hour. That number, in case you are wondering, was 226 — or 37.5 guitars. Since Silkman bought Flint Hills Music in 2014, the store has grown its repair business substantially. Instruments are brought in (especially during the summer months) to be serviced and repaired and made ready for school bands and orchestras from across Kansas. The store also offers music lessons, music therapy, and sponsors the annual Live in the Lot summer concert series in downtown Emporia. What’s next for this number crunching, musicloving man? Another Guinness World Record, of course! He agreed to spill the beans on the pages of Sallie this year and let us know that the world’s largest (drum roll, please) …..ukulele is next on his list! So, in the words of a musician, “Stay tuned!” FALL 2019 | 53
Some things you may not know about Thomas & Flint Hills Music:
AMBER SILKMAN: Thomas’ wife who is not only a dental hygienist, but assists at the store after hours. Other members of his family also work at the store. “It’ really is a family business,” he says. ROXY: Thomas’ miniature longhaired Dachshund. 2014: Year he bought Flint Hills Music 100 (give or take): Number of schools the music store services across Kansas. 3,500 (give or take): Number of instruments the store repairs every year. 1,500: Number of instruments repaired just during June and July each summer. FOUR: Number of technicians responsible for repairing all those brass, woodwind and string instruments.
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WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME? We have spent most of our down time over the last couple of years traveling as much as possible. DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO OWN A MUSIC STORE? I’ve always wanted to own my own business. I have been interested in entrepreneurship from a young age, and I like the idea of working for myself and the freedom to try out new ideas. IF YOU DIDN’T OWN A MUSIC STORE WHAT WOULD YOUR DREAM JOB BE? I’ve always been into creating new things and tinkering with ideas. I think something along the lines of inventor or writer would be a good fit for me for a dream job. WHAT ERA OF MUSIC DO YOU LIKE MOST/LEAST? It’s hard to say. I think everything has its time and place. AN INSTRUMENT I WOULD REALLY LOVE TO LEARN TO PLAY: I’ve always played instruments, but I think I would really enjoy taking some singing lessons. I’ve never been able to sing very well. MOST MEMORABLE CONCERT/SHOW: The first larger concert I attended was ZZ Top at the Kansas State Fair in 2005. LATEST MUSIC CHOICE BEING PLAYED AROUND THE STORE: The theme for me this summer has been tropical or island themed music. Anything that brings a little vacation to the work day during our busy season.
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By Melissa Lowery Photography by Dave Leiker
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Loretta's Lorett a's Line Line
Everyone Knows "Loretta"
ell, at least anyone who frequents the selfcheckout line at Walmart. (And, come on, that’s quite a few of us.) But for many customers, it’s not the speedy checkout that draws them to her aisle. It’s Loretta. Loretta’s line is like no other. Her positive attitude and upbeat vibe is unmistakable and makes anyone’s shopping experience just a little better (and we all can appreciate that). She greets many customers by name and welcomes them to her line in the store almost like it’s her home. And for her, it is her home, showing genuine hospitality to every customer who walks through, and even tidying and cleaning up her space like it’s her own. Her line is also a place where she can live out what has always been one of the most important things to her, something her mom taught her well: to treat others as you would like to be treated. “My mom would always say, 'You never know where people are in their lives.' A smile and a helping hand might be exactly what they need to keep going,” she said. For Walmart Store Manager Anthony Newell, Loretta is the kind of team member who adds value to the store with her personality and work ethic. “Loretta always has a smile on her face, and has never met a stranger,” he said. “Her outgoing demeanor has made her a great cultural champion for our store, including philanthropy for Children's Miracle Network. Her positive attitude toward her work and our customers are both infectious and delightful.” Customer Charity Sandstrom appreciates Loretta's consistent cheer and steadfast spirit. “Loretta stands above the rest,” Charity said. “She is always ready with a smile and a helping hand. Her calm presence even during hectic times lets you know she's got it all under control. I'm always a little happier when I walk up to the self-check and she's there.” FALL 2019 | 61
Loretta's introduction to personal relations, as she calls working with the public, came from her mother, Joy. Loretta recalls watching how Joy interacted with cashiers, mechanics, “anybody we needed service from.” “When we'd go to the grocery store when I was little, we'd go to the cash register and I'd watch the girl that checked us out and I'd watch my mom's face,” Loretta said. “If Mom had a smile, then that cashier was good. If she didn't, then that person was bad.” Loretta talks about her mother a lot. It's clear that Joy’s unwavering support and guiding influence are still a large part of her daughter’s life. She passed away in Nov. 2018, the beloved matriarch of a close-knit family. Loretta is now the matriarch, beaming with pride and love whenever she talks about her family. Her partner, Richard Bridges, is “the love of my life.” Daughters Heather and Renee live nearby and have blessed her with three granddaughters: Shayla, Shelby and Semira. The newest addition to the family is Loretta’s great-grandson, Kyrie Jordan, “a little spitfire,” Loretta says proudly. Loretta's career has spanned a range of experiences, from musician to bartender to a failed attempt at selling Avon products to 15 years at Dillons on Industrial to Bank of America to more than a decade at Walmart. In high school, a career counselor suggested that Loretta become a salesperson. “He said, 'With a smile like that, you gotta go into sales!'” she remembers. “And I did end up in sales, just not the way he expected.” That attempt at selling Avon quickly showed her that direct sales were not her strength. “My mom used to say that you should only sell things that sell themselves,” Loretta said. “That's what retail is — selling things that sell themselves.” 62 | EMPORIA LIVING
â€œLoretta stands above the rest. She is always ready with a smile and a helping hand.â€?
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Loretta learned how to run a cash register, a task she still finds satisfying, and realized with that skill, she would never be without a job. Her people skills are what set her above the rest. “Being able to run a cash register can get you the job, but a good attitude is how you keep it,” she said. And Loretta is good at keeping jobs. She worked at the Dillons on Industrial for 15 years, first “out on the floor” assisting shoppers, then as a cashier. But she was so popular that customers would skip other cashiers to get in “Loretta's Line.” Kaila Mock remembers going to Dillons as a child with her mother and being disappointed if Loretta wasn't working that day. “My mom and I would always wait a little longer to be in 'Loretta’s Line' so we could chat with her and because she was funny and fast,” Kaila said. The manager ended up putting Loretta back out on the floor, where she provided assistance to shoppers and was more accessible.
In 2003, Loretta won the Image Award, an honor bestowed by the Chamber of Commerce in recognition of her “commitment to the future of Emporia as expressed by your dedication to offering quality customer service.” Jennell Tebbetts presented Loretta with the award and still remembers what set Loretta apart. “I met Loretta at Dillons on the west side many, many years ago,” Tebbetts said. “I loved how she treated everyone that went through her checkout. Customer service is her specialty!” Customers who remembered Loretta from her other jobs were delighted when she started working at Walmart. Once again, people are waiting to get in “Loretta’s Line.” “When I got older and was shopping for myself, Loretta was working at Walmart and I would always look for 'Loretta’s Line' at checkout time,” Mock said. “She is always kind and patient and there’s nothing that she can’t figure out or fix. I’ve never seen her in a bad mood or heard her complain. No matter what crazy thing
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is going on in the world, you know that there is always a big, welcoming smile waiting for you in 'Loretta’s Line.'” Loretta Phoenix has had her share of challenges, from being a single mother to having a brain tumor removed to losing her own beloved mother less than a year ago. Music and her faith in God are what carry her through. “Music. Well, God first, then music,” she said. “I always have a song in my head, helping me through the day. You might see me smiling, and it's because I'm listening to my own soundtrack.” One of her favorite songs is Joan Osborne's “What If God Was One of Us?” The lyrics ask the listener to imagine God as “a stranger on the bus” which, for Loretta, is a reminder that every person deserves to be treated with respect. “Eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, work is my happy place,” she said. “Mom taught me, whatever is bothering you, leave it at the door. That monkey will jump on your back again as soon as you walk out the door. So work is my happy place.”
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before Photography by Jason Dailey 70 | EMPORIA LIVING
Broken toBeautiful: D
saving one of emporia’s oldest homes
riving down Wilson Street, you can’t miss No. 630. Positioned a good distance off the street, the crisp, classic Spanish-Revival bungalow draws attention to any passers-by. The clean, white stucco exterior accented by woodframed windows, a red tile roof and a tidy picket-fenced yard stand in stark contrast to the other homes on the 600 block in midtown Emporia. But it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, in 2008 the Lyon County Beacon pictures the home in a pathetic state of disrepair after years of abuse and neglect,
nearly encased in weeds and creeping ivy. Only glimpses of its unique architecture and storied past (it’s one of the oldest homes in town) were visible through the overgrowth. The home was even on the verge of being torn down and replaced with new construction. That’s just when it captured the hearts of Joe and Allison Foster. Lovers of old and unusual things, even those most people may consider beyond repair, 630 Wilson Street was just what the Fosters were looking for when they moved back to Emporia to settle down and start a family.
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n this year’s “Home Sweet Home,” take a peek inside this special Emporia home and see how the Fosters breathed new life back into its walls while still honoring its past.
WHAT FIRST ATTRACTED YOU TO THIS HOUSE? I loved the idea of living in something old and unique. I had never seen a house like it, nor was there anything like it in town. WHAT KIND OF SHAPE WAS THE HOUSE IN WHEN YOU BOUGHT IT? Much of the yard was overgrown with sapling trees around the house. The stucco was in need of repair. The kitchen was half the size it is now and the bathroom needed an upgrade, namely the pull-string in the shower. WHAT KIND OF RENOVATION DID YOU HAVE TO DO, IF ANY? Before we even moved in, we refinished the hardwood floors throughout the house. The kitchen and dining area were on a platform in an attempt to level the floors; that had to go, which led to the kitchen renovation. We also set to work on the yard, clearing the trees that were interfering with the foundation. WHAT MAKES THE HOME SPECIAL TO YOU? This was our first home. Joe and I did so much of the work together. We brought out babies home there, who learned to walk on those wood floors that we spent hours on our knees refinishing. We made that house for us. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE FEATURES ABOUT THE HOME? We all loved the yard. Joe is interested in urban farming, we both enjoyed landscaping and the kids had room to play. The exterior of the house, with the detail at the top, is my favorite, which never seemed to pop until we painted it.
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TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU FURNISHED THE HOUSE? Garage sale-ing has always been a hobby for Joe and me. We love treasure hunting for old, solid wood pieces that folks have no use for and at a good price. Our whole house is furnished with our findings. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE “STYLE” OF YOUR FURNISHINGS? Most of our furnishings are mid-century, modern style and eclectic. All pieces are handpicked out of Emporia’s garage sales, church sales and thrift stores. WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THIS HOME? It’s old and unique. The unique exterior finish was the result of a family’s ingenuity and creativity to save their house after a fire. I love seeing or being a part of something that was broken, then rescued and redeemed. WHY THE PAINT-BY-NUMBERS COLLECTION? Paint by numbers are easy to come by, kitschy and valuing someone’s work. Editor’s Note: It was with a great mixture of emotions the Fosters decided to sell 630 Wilson over the summer and move into another mid-town home in Emporia with more space for their growing family. FALL 2018 | 73
One of Emporia’s Oldest Homes Now is Modern Bungalow
hen, in March 1934, young Mr. and Mrs. Tom Fleming bought and moved into the big, old, 3-story “haunted” house, the former Col. David Taylor home on a tract of land 104-by-180 feet, running west from Garfield to Wilson Street, between Sixth and Seventh, their friends jarringly told them they had a “white elephant” on their hands. Their new neighbors — those not acquainted with the Flemings — knew the house had been vacant off and on for several years and that it had some undesirable tenants, so the neighbors wondered why the Flemings wanted the place. The Flemings lived at first in the house as it stood, with few alterations, but with considerable improvements and some necessary repairs. They were taking ample time to decide on what would be the best way to make the house desirably smaller, to fit the needs of a small family. They wished it to be a credit to the neighborhood and they wanted to get as much as possible for the money — it would be necessary to use to make the house comfortable and good to look at. A FIRE SPEEDS ACTION “We had a thousand plans,” said Tom Fleming. “No telling when we would have reached a decision as to the best way to do over the house, but a fire burned the roof off and ruined the second and third stories, so we had to do something. Then we got busy, and you see the result. There still is a lot of finishing work to do, but we have to go slowly as we can afford. Our son’s arrival this year diverted our funds. We’ll get it all shipshape after a while and we are having the time of our lives working in this old house.” This house has been converted to a 1-story, Spanish type building and the plan of that first floor considerably changed. The frontage was changed because the west frontage was the proper distance from Wilson Street to the east end of the house is the length of a block and a half from Garfield Avenue. Looking at the house inside and out, except for the large rooms and some extra good features, one would not think of it as a rebuilt or remodeled house. There is comfort, no wasted space and the house, built more than 50 years ago, will stand for another half century or more. The Flemings plan to build a garage adjoining the house on the north. BUILT IN 1885 Mrs. Frank Dale, 901 State, is a daughter of the late Col. and Mrs. David Taylor. The house, as it stood when the Flemings bought it, was built in 1885, and was none too large for the Taylors and their three sons and three daughters. The first owner of the 200-acre farm, which Colonel Taylor bought from the late Senator Preston B. Plumb, was Leigh McClung, who bought the land from the federal government. Feb. 4, 1859, McClung sold the land as shown by the abstract to David and Hannah Plumb. Oct. 26, 1865 the David Plumbs deeded the farm to their son, Preston B. Plumb, who built the brick house. Colonel Taylor bought the 200 acres from Senator Plumb on March 3, 1882.
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the four floors, and some mighty good times we had in our fine, roomy home, with space for as many youngsters as we might wish to invite. I was married in this home, as was my sister, May--Mrs. Alvin Sankey, of Peorla, IL. “From the sand and gravel in the east of the house, my father had cement blocks made. Father was certain this could be done and worked out a formula. Cement blocks were little known in those days, but that must have been an excellent formula, as the blocks were enduring. This was the first cement used in Emporia. Father had the bricks of the old part of the house stuccoed, the stucco marked off in squares, the same as the blocks in the new part of the house, and it had the appearance of having been built of cement blocks. For years, Father sold a great deal of sand and gravel from his pit, mining and screening the sand. Father laid out Oakfield Avenue about the time we moved out there.” MANY HOUSES ON OLD FARM Colonel Taylor died in 1919, Mrs. Taylor many years earlier. In 1923, Frank Dale bought the place, by that time comprising only 40 acres, from the Taylor heirs. It extended from Lincoln to Sunnyslope Avenues, and from Sixth to Ninth. Mr. Dale laid out and developed the Graystone addition to Emporia and scores of homes now occupy the prairie over which the Taylor young people and their friends used to frolic. “The original Plumb house,” said Mrs. Frank Dale, “was a 2story, 5-room brick building. Father built the hall and two more rooms on the north, extended the structure to three full stories, with an under the roof attic. There were four big rooms on each of
WALKED TO TOWN “There was a road running out Ninth Avenue as well as Sixth, and we entered the farms by gates from these roads. The Ninth Avenue road stopped at the farm. The house was surrounded by a large orchard of many varieties of good fruit. Prairie land was all about us. It was a beautiful and pleasant home, far out in those days, but we never realized we were enduring hardships when we walked every day into town to attend school, or to the College of Emporia. We enjoyed walking and we enjoyed our home, and we loved to share it with our friends.” The Taylors came to Emporia from Ohio in 1882 and lived and owned the two lots and houses at 803 Neosho, now the property of B. N. Parker. The Taylors bought the Neosho Street from Mrs. Nellis, and it has changed hands several times since they sold it.
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Cookin' By Bobbi Mlynar Photography by Jason Dailey
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“Hospitality and home–style food so good, you’ll think they stole your momma”
ospitality and home-style food "so good, you'll think they stole your momma" are only two of the reasons the Commercial Street Diner continues to thrive while other diners nationwide are fading into the past. The diner and its owners, Janet and David Laird, were featured in June on the "Fork in the Road" segment on WIBW-TV, and Commercial Street Diner was named No. 2 in an Only in Your State online article on the Top Ten Diners in Kansas. The honors and recognition have not come automatically, nor easily, since the couple purchased the restaurant in 2010 from Roger and the late Linda Buffum. "The first three years were pretty lean," said Janet Laird, who recently made time after-hours to be interviewed. "We were holding on by our teeth." Their efforts to live up to their "stole your momma" slogan soon were rewarded, when business at the diner began a boom that continues today. On weekends, sometimes lines form outside as patrons wait for an open table. The diner usually seats 80 at 18 tables, but can accommodate more, if some of the tables are separated. "We have people asking about expanding, but we're just not up to that at this point," she said. Laird attributes part of the diner's success in recent years to the influx of thousands of tourists who come here from all over the world to participate in major events like the Glass Blown Open, Dirty Kanza, world championship disc golf competitions, and smaller, related and unrelated events that seem to go on year-'round. International students at Emporia State University also have taken a liking to the food and ambience they find at the diner. Laird welcomes the opportunity to learn more about other countries, their people and their customs. Without the diner, she said, "I would never be able to know them in a lifetime." FALL 2019 | 83
Occasionally, though, she needs to adjust her mental ears to understand what a customer wants to order. An Australian accent took her aback momentarily, much to her enjoyment. "I looked up and said, 'I don't know what you said, but say it again. It was awesome,'" she recalled. "... I just think it's cool that people from all over the world come here." Last year, the diner's extensive breakfast menu fascinated a family from England. They explained their excitement stemmed from the limited breakfast fare offered in England's restaurants. "They were just happy as can be that they could come in and order what they want," Laird said. The steady base of customers, though, comes from local residents. "The way Emporia has just embraced this place! We sit back and just kind of go 'Wow!'" she said. The diner's home-style cooking appeals to patrons, but it is a signature breakfast dish that draws the most attention. "People love our biscuits and gravy," Laird said. "It's kind of a benchmark for us." The diner goes through 25 to 50 pounds of sausage daily, depending on demand, and all of it is cooked on-site. No frozen, pre-cooked sausage can match the flavor of sausage browned on the stove, she said. Staff hand-patties fresh hamburger and hand-breads other items instead of using pre-breaded, frozen products. "That's half the battle, using good ingredients," Laird commented. "For lunch, we have a heck of a burger and a hot roast-beef sandwich. And we have the prettiest Reuben I've ever seen, 84 | EMPORIA LIVING
on marbled rye." Laird hasn't sampled the latter because she's not a fan of some of the ingredients that go into a Reuben; instead, she relies on customers' compliments to know it's a winner. Some dishes not often available in other restaurants â€” or in many private homes, for that matter â€” are part of the diner's every-day menu. "Liver and onions," she said. "Others refuse to cook it because they can't stand the smell of it. We sell a lot of it. We really do. And grits. We have them on the menu, but I don't serve many." The diner also serves as home base for many groups that have been coming in for coffee breaks and breakfasts for years. "Some of them came with the business," Laird said. "They start filtering in around 5 a.m., just for coffee," though the staff is busy setting up for the diner's opening at 6 a.m. "You come in that early, you serve yourself," she remarked with a laugh. Most groups come in a few hours later. Laird knows the regulars by their first names, if not their last names, and enjoys having them in the diner, drinking coffee, eating breakfast, and discussing the topics of the day. "My mother used to say that men solve the problems of the world and the women gossip," Laird said, smiling at the memory."And she would say it very sarcastically." Stan Fowler was invited into one of the existing groups 15 or 20 years ago. Some of those members are gone now because of age or ill health, but those remaining continue the routine, and new faces from other groups. "That table up front was full every day," Fowler recalled. "We'd meet there at 7:30
in the morning, 7 o'clock. ... I think Chris Phillips was there at 6 or 6:30 with a group, and came back at 8 o'clock." The draw is the "down-home kind of diner. That's the nuance to it," he said. Laird said she feels fortunate that many of the coffee-drinkers order something to eat, too. It's not always sausage gravy and biscuits; some prefer the big-as-plates pancakes or waffles that Laird admits her sweet tooth prefers. Fowler said the diner's veteran patrons often can easily identify new customers by what and how they order. "If you've ever sat there in the morning, it's fun to watch people order who obviously have never been there," he said. "You have to tell her a medium pancake. I don't want it hangin' off the plate. "These kids come in and order a short stack and my goodness! I can't even eat one! Nobody leaves hungry, that's for sure. It's comical to see." THE BEST-LAID PLANS The Lairds appear to have found a recipe for success they hadn't even been looking for before Janet Laird graduated from Emporia State University in 2010 with a degree in business and a minor in accounting.
Without doubt, she had broad experience waiting tables, cooking, and managing restaurants, but she had decided to change careers. "I think it was more of a survival thing," she said, with a touch of irony. "I went to college to get out of the restaurant business." The jobs she'd held under the university's work-study program, however, had taught her that an office job was not a good fit. "It took a few years for me to realize I didn't want to sit at a desk," Laird explained. Owning her own restaurant always had held a certain appeal, so as jobs became scarce and the nation was sinking deeper into recession, the couple began looking for a vacant building where they could open a restaurant. The vacant building did not materialize, but the full-blown diner did. "One day I ventured in here and met Roger and Linda," she said. The Buffums were ready to sell the business and, because bank loans were difficult to obtain in a wavering economy, the Lairds took an extreme measure. "We had to sell the farm and take the proceeds to buy the restaurant," she said.
"There wouldn't be a diner without Dave. It was his family's farm, his grandfather's." David Laird, who had been working at Carquest, subsequently joined his wife at the diner. LABOR OF LOVE There's no doubt whatsoever that owning and operating the diner consumes inordinate amounts of time working and allows precious little time off. The couple works six days a week, with the workday stretching from about 5 o'clock in the morning to 5 or 6 o'clock in the evening. They close the diner on Mondays and for a week or a week and a half to take a vacation once a year. "It is hard work; very hard work," Laird admitted. "I can see why diners are a dying breed." But they agree that they enjoy their work and the people they meet along the way. Janet Laird waits tables, mans the cash register, oversees the restaurant area and employees, and, though the diner employs several cooks, occasionally gets to do some cooking herself. "The kitchen really is my comfort zone," she said, "and I know what I'm doing back there."
David Laird serves as bookkeeper, maintenance man, purchasing agent, pie-baker and meatloaf-maker. He also has utilized his photography and woodworking skills to interject an eclectic personality into the restaurant's interior. Seasonal photographs are rotated throughout the year; a wooden clock sits on the north wall; tiny fairy, or pixie, doors hung randomly on the walls can be spotted by customers with a keen eye for detail. The distribution of responsibilities works well for the couple and for the diner. David Laird sees another bonus in the arrangement as well. "I get to spend 24/7 with my best friend," he said, strolling out of his office to wrap an arm around his wife's shoulder. The couple and their 12-member team of workers sometimes seem more like family than employers-employees. As two of the young men finished cleaning up while Janet Laird was being interviewed, each stopped by to give her a hug before leaving. Employee turnover is minimal. One of the dishwashers, Ken, worked for the Buffums and stayed on to work for the Lairds. There's a comfortable ambience about the diner that is almost palpable. Even customers are drawn into the congenial atmosphere. People table-hop to talk with friends and acquaintances, and sometimes leave the wait staff wondering who is sitting at what table when it's time to deliver the plates of food. Laird definitely considers that as a positive, not a negative. "It reminds me of 'Cheers,'" Laird said, referring to a popular television series, "because it's where everybody knows your name. ... When you stand back and look at it, I think that's wonderful. Awesome.â€? "It's something I think America doesn't have enough of anymore."
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SaladParties A group of local ladies has made eating their vegetables easy and fun!
ith regularly scheduled “Salad Parties,” a group of busy moms in town has found a way to eat healthy and save time and money at the same time. Ashley James, a stay-at-home mother of three, started the salad party group a little more than a year ago when she decided she wanted to try something different to encourage herself and her friends to eat well even amidst the busyness of everyday life. The plan was simple: Bring two salad toppings and five mason jars, and 30 minutes later, go home with five pre-made, healthy and yummy salads ready to eat any time during the week. On a weekly schedule, or sometimes monthly, depending on the time of year, (because hey, these are busy moms), the group ranges from 5 to 10 ladies at a time. The buffet of salad toppings changes week to week, depending on who brings what, but some ingredients that are often in the line-up are things like: quinoa, Brussels sprouts, garbanzo beans, craisins, radishes, corn, peppers, hard-boiled eggs, carrots… really just about anything!
Photography by Dave Leiker
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The parties not only make it easy to eat healthy throughout the week, but they encourage them to try new things on their salads (yes, even Brussels sprouts) without the expense of buying a huge amount at a time. Admittedly, the salads are what brings them together, but the half-hour chance to catch-up with one another, share a hug or a word of encouragement during their crazy mid-week schedules is a nice bonus (because hey, these are busy moms). We thought our Sallie readers may be inspired to host their own “salad parties,” or find the following mason jar salad recipes an easy way to plan ahead for a week of healthy eating. Because we all know what Mama always says: “Eat your vegetables!”
Shrimp and Feta Cobb Salad • 1 quart Mason jar • A few teaspoons of dressing of choice • 2 Tablespoons avocado, chopped • 8 grape tomatoes • 1 Tablespoon red onion, chopped • 2 Tablespoons cucumber, chopped • A few handfuls of romaine lettuce and baby spinach • 2 Tablespoons of feta, chopped • 6 to 8 cooked, peeled shrimp • 1 boiled egg, chopped • 2 slices of cooked bacon, chopped Layer all items in order starting with the dressing, seal with the lid. Grab and go! Toss it in a bowl when you’re ready to eat to mix it all up.
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Indian-American Chaat • 1 quart Mason jar • 1 cup grated cucumber • 1 cup Greek yogurt • 1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped • Salt and pepper, to taste • 1 - 2 teaspoons cumin • 1/2 cup raisins • 3/4 cup cooked chickpeas The excess moisture from the cucumbers needs to be drawn out. I don’t like to use salt for this because I can’t get the sodium back out of the dish. So, after grating, squeeze the cucumbers in a strip of cheesecloth or layered paper towels. Save the juice for another use. Then, set the cucumbers in a mesh strainer over a bowl to keep dripping while you prepare the other ingredients. Whisk together the yogurt, mint and spices, to taste. Add red pepper if you like. Layer the ingredients in the jar starting with the yogurt and followed by cucumbers, raisins and chickpeas. To serve, place papadum strips or pieces in a bowl and turn out the jar over the top.
Chicken Tortellini Salad • 1 quart Mason jar • 2 Tablespoons Italian dressing • 1 cup tortellini, cooked, drained • 1/4 cup artichoke hearts, drained • 1/2 cup chicken, cooked, chopped • 2 Tablespoons black olives, chopped • 5 cherry tomatoes, halved • 5 or 6 fresh basil leaves • A side dish of shredded mozzarella or Italian Blend cheese, optional Layer the ingredients in the order listed. There are lots of different tortellinis out there, with flavored pasta and fillings, so this can have some variety. Also, chopped salami or pepperoni would be a fun twist. I don’t care for pepperoncini, but there’s no reason not to add some if you like them. I keep the cheese separate so it doesn’t get soggy; anytime I can get little mozzarella balls (bocconcini) I pile them on, diet be darned!
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Black Bean & Corn Salad • 1 quart Mason jar • 1/4 cup salsa • 2 Tablespoons Greek yogurt • 5 cherry tomatoes, halved • 1 - 2 Tablespoons red onion, chopped • 1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed • 1/2 cup corn niblets, drained • 1/2 an avocado, chopped • 1/4 cup pepper jack cheese, cut into small cubes • 1 1/2 cups chopped romaine lettuce • 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional) Start with the salsa, followed by the greek yogurt, tomatoes, onions, black beans, corn, avocado, cheese and ending with romaine and cilantro. When ready to eat, pour into a bowl, mix together, and chow down.
Thai Peanut Salad Salad: • 2 ounces soba noodles • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced • 1/2 cup shelled edamame, cooked • 1 large carrots, peeled and shredded • 2 green onions, thinly sliced In large pot of boiling water, cook noodles according to package instructions. Rinse under cold water and drain. Meanwhile, make Spicy Peanut Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, chili paste, rice vinegar and soy sauce. While whisking, slowly drizzle in oil until all oil is incorporated. Stir in sesame seeds. Layer the dressing, soba (buckwheat) noodles, vegetables and chow mein noodles. Refrigerate up to 5 days.
• 1/4 cup chow mein noodles Spicy peanut dressing: • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter • 2 teaspoons chili paste • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil • 1/2 Tablespoon black sesame seeds
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Women's magazine for Emporia, Kansas