By Peg Britton

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We can boast of several unique places to shop in Ellsworth and elsewhere in the county. Our Mom and Pop shops reflect the independence, passions and personalities of their owners. We wish and strive for greater numbers of entrepreneurs. Although they can provide the needs of the everyday shopper, their stores also have a beautiful edge that makes them unique treasures for our town.

It makes a positive difference to them when you shop in their store. The courteous, personal service they give to you will make you aware how much they appreciate your business.

There are brief vignettes below to give you an idea of what to expect when you visit some of the shops in Ellsworth County. It is sometimes difficult to describe the unusual, but you'll get the idea.

In addition, there are many other locally-owned and operated stores in town where merchandise and food are more conventional yet the personal service is outstanding Seitz Drug Store has assorted gifts and candy, even a good assortment for diabetics; F&M Drug Store offers many supplies; two flower stores offer a variety of floral arrangements and plants; Strella's has shoes for the entire family; KCs Cafe specializes in barbecue and buffets; Paden's Restaurant and Place serve good food and bar beverages; Gambino's is well-known for their pizza, sandwiches, burgers and recreation, etc.

It takes strong and continuous support from many people to keep small towns alive and thriving. Business owners appreciate your business, and they community especially appreciates "new money" that flows in from other counties. We strive to keep the heartbeat of rural Kansas pumping.

Tru Value Hardware
Pete and Alice Donley, owners
Ted and Cynthia Edgerle, owners
212 North Douglas Ave.
Downtown Ellsworth
Tru Value Hardware

Photos by Peg Britton

Ellsworth has a long history of continuously supporting a downtown, locally-owned hardware store. The Ellsworth hardware business was started by T.G. O'Donnell in 1899 and remained in O'Donnell hands for many years. After T.G.'s death, the business fell into the hands of his three unmarried daughters; Kathleen, Marion and Eleanor. Eventually they became too old to continue operating the business and it was sold to John and Carla Friesen.

After many years of operation, the Friesens sold the business to Don and Carol Panzer who added the True Value line to expand the advertising capability and benefit Ellsworth shoppers.

Pete and Alice Donley and Ted and Cynthia Edgerle purchased the business from Panzer several years ago, moved the across the street to increase their square footage of display space and expanded the modern concept of an old-fashioned, locally-owned hardware store. We miss the well-worn wooden floors and pot-bellied stove that warmed our backsides on cold winter days, and so does Pete, but many new, good things are in place in their present location so one tends to forget the days of yore.

You can find almost every variety of nut, bolt and nail, doodads like cork bottle stoppers, plumbing and electrical supplies, hunting gear and equipment, paint, yard and garden equipment and supplies, small appliances, household items and a wide variety of gifts. They will gift wrap and deliver what you buy, if you ask. If Pete doesn't have it, he'll find it for you. His service is the best. It is part of the heritage of the store.

Ted and his son, Matt, are certified, small engine mechanics and are on duty full time. They run the back end of the store where there is a huge service and repair business. Breakdowns in equipment are a common occurrence and in small towns repairmen are hard to find. Not at Pete's. They service what they sell and a whole lot more. They provide exceptional service throughout the store.

Pete has loved everything about the hardware business since he was very young. He opens his store every morning at 7:30 a.m. and closes at 5:30, but Ted is always the last to leave about midnight or sometimes just before the store opens the next morning. Repair work is continuous.

Pete loves the hardware business and is there day after day, year after year. He spends Sundays preparing for the next week. You'll find him taking a break, occasionally, at the Espresso Bar next door.

Robson's Card and Gift Shop
Ken and Alice Robson, owners
211 North Douglas Ave.
Downtown Ellsworth

Photo by Peg Britton

We're very fortunate to have a card and gift store which maintains the quality of accommodations and extensiveness of Robson's. Located in the middle of downtown Ellsworth, the traffic flow in and out of their store is constant. They not only have what meets the eye on display, but if we also happen to have a newly appointed district judge in our midst, Robson's will supply the court house trappings for such an office. Such was the case when the County Commissioners accepted Robson's bid for furniture for Judge Ron Svaty's office and noted a substantial and welcome discount along with their excellent customer service.

Ken and Alice have operated the card and gift shop for over 20 years and continue with the line of Hallmark products that have maintained a presence in Ellsworth for over 70 years. Robson's, which followed Callie's Card Corner and Grant's Book Store, have doubled the floor space and greatly increased the inventory of previous owners in order to better serve their customers.

Alice and Ken offer a wide variety of office supplies, computer stationery and supplies, wedding invitations, announcements and stationery with personalized printing. Their book line includes Bibles, Christian books and cook books. They offer a selection of class rings for high school students and anniversary occasions. Along with a full line of Hallmark cards and gifts there are party supplies and an assortment of Village and Colonial candles that always make a perfect gift.

They gift wrap and will package merchandise for mailing. They are a full service business. If they don t have it, they will try to find it for you.

Robson's is a strong draw within the community for collectibles. You'll find Precious Moments figurines, Boyd's Bears, Mary's MooMoos, Dream Sicles, etc. They also have tapestries, an interesting line of jewelry and many other gift ideas.

When you need a gift, greeting card, ink cartridge, or a full layout of office furniture stop by Robson's to check out their large inventory. They have numerous catalogs at their fingertips with quick delivery for each order. You ll find their store and customer service top rung. Ken and Alice have been awarded the Chamber of Commerce Citizens of the Year award for their outstanding service to the community.

Drovers Mercantile
The Cowboy Shop
Jim Gray and Linda Kohls, owners
119 N. Douglas
Downtown Ellsworth

Photo by Peg Britton

"Never sell yer saddle". This is Ellsworth's complete and authentic western store with lots of real cowboy stuff. Kassie and the Cowboy will be there to greet you wearing their authentic frontier gear. They can outfit gents and ladies in classic old west styles as well as cowboy clothes, hats, spurs and gear. Rounding out the store, you'll find a wide assortment of merchandise including Old West music, books, cookbooks, cowboy gifts, paintings, dream catchers, Indian reproductions, stick chairs, cooking equipment, chuck wagon mixin's, leather goods and "saddlebags more". Lodge Dutch oven cookware. Renegade cowboy hats.

Drovers is the home of the Kansas Cowboy, the official publication of the C.O.W.B.O.Y. Society (Cockeyed Old West Band of Yahoos Society), $18.67 per year. Ask Jim and Linda about their Spring Roundup (second weekend in April, usually) and Fall Roundup (third weekend in October, usually). They're sum pin to see, so come join the fun. If you happen to be driving through town during a roundup, you'll be surprised to see people dressed as if Ellsworth were caught up in a 1860s time warp.

When you're doin' a whole lot o' nuthin', come to the Drovers. Hold yer hosses and protect the wimmen if Colorado Joe and and Gamblin' Glen are in town. Talk with Cowboy Jim and maybe meet other cowboys like Moon McCall and Luke Warmwater. If cowboy poet and story teller Ernie Masden is here from Wilson, find yerself a saddle and hold on to yer sack lunch.

The Drovers Mercantile is one of the Make a Difference projects of the Kansas Sampler Foundation. The goal is to educate people about various aspects of Kansas and to make a difference while doing that. The idea is to stop in, get acquainted and spend $5.00 in his store and by doing this, it will help make a difference in the amount of business Jim does during the year. This is a place people should know and talk about. Jim is passionate about keeping the story of early cattle drovers alive as well as collecting stories about those in the ranching industry past and present.

Ellsworth Antique Mall
Chad and Jennifer Roehrman, Mark and Josie Roehrman, owners
210 North Douglas
Downtown Ellsworth

Photos by Peg Britton

How would you like your dining destination to be in the upscale Wellington Cellar Restaurant, formerly a bowling alley, where you can sit at a table near the score posted by a bowler on the chalkboard wall in1907? This area in the underground also contains store fronts where once were found a clothing store, shoe store and bowling alley.

A brick walkway led to the Ellsworth underground in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Mark and Josie Roehrman have cleaned this area, added stairways in the front and back and plan to recapture as much of the original appearance as possible. This will make it possible in 2005 or 2006 for us to relive those early days of the Ellsworth underground where citizens spent many of their leisure moments. A steak house is in the plan. Tours of the underground are available now by appointment.

The top floor of the Antique Mall has until recently been the home of the Masonic Lodge. It is filled with millwork that is ornately beautiful, sophisticated and very labor-intensive. There are details in layered, colored enamel paints and crown molding twenty-two inches tall. This area will be preserved and used to display more antiques with the backdrop being the same as the past 107 years. The rooms will be filled with authentic items, period tools and clothing of the early 1900s in order to experience the nostalgia of that period.

At the main entrance of the Antique Mall is a small sophisticated coffee shop where you can meet a friend or take a break from shopping Douglas Avenue or the Mall and sample freshly ground, roasted coffee beans made into a scrumptious cup of latte, espresso or cappuccino. There are smoothies made with fresh fruit and other new taste treats for Ellsworth.

For the antique hounds, there are about 75 antique booths on the main floor. There will be that many more upstairs. The exhibitors represent the entire state of Kansas. You will find furniture, glassware, Depression glass, toys, dolls, jewelry, decoys, sporting goods, signage and a huge collection of new collectible items. It's a place where you can spend hours just poking around looking at things. You re bound to find just what you are looking for along with additional treasures.

This historic renovation by the Roehrman family is truly an economic boost and tourist attraction for Ellsworth and the surrounding area.

Oxhide Arrangements, Jewelry and Rustic Decor
Tammy Kruse, owner
1220 North Douglas
Downtown Ellsworth

Photo by Peg Britton

Tammy Kruse is always striking upon a new idea or a better way of doing things. She has conducted business in her Oxhide store from three locations prior to this latest move to Douglas Avenue. As her business has increased since she first began in 1988, she changed locations to keep up with the pace in store traffic. This new location on main street has been a huge plus for her as people are noticing Oxhide as they pass by. She says it's true about location, location, location as it has shored up her business considerably.

She has a unique store that reflects her own personality. She carries what she likes and that seems to be what appeals to her customers. Her store has a boutique uniqueness that is not always found in a small town. If you are looking for gifts, jewelry, candles or handmade crafts, then she has a wide selection of options for you.

One product line she carries that I like is Burt's Bees earth friendly, natural personal care products...lip balm, lotions, handcream, foot cream and more. She has a room full of foil and latex helium balloons for your next festive occasion. She tries not to duplicate items found elsewhere in Ellsworth.

You'll find "Wild Rags" by Laurie Donley...cowgirl neckerchiefs; upholstered chairs, homemade pillows, bird houses, Christmas ornaments and grapevine floral arrangements. There are two kinds of candles, Sugar Shack and Cheerful Giver and a wide assortment of sterling silver jewelry, Swarovski lead crystal and Geneva watches. Her American West leather purses have been a big draw for her.

The rustic decor of her store complements the historic flavor of Ellsworth and is a fine addition to the western theme that prevails in town.

I asked where her homemade pickle relish, jellies and jams were shelved and she actually did have a couple jars of relish. It wouldn't surprise me at all if she soon has a table covered with her homemade goodies for which she is locally well-known. She'll probably draw the line at making her famous Bloomin' Onions just for me.

Stop in and see Tammy and wish her well in her new location. She is the kind of local entrepreneur we want see succeed as her store with its originality and uniqueness strengthens our town. It s good to shop at home with Tammy.

Johnny Bingo's Hats
John Barr, owner
121 N. Douglas
Downtown Ellsworth

Photo by Peg Britton

Johnny is nationally recognized for his custom hat shaping and renovation. He has a wide assortment of cowboy hats, both new and used. The very old worn out ones have lots of character and are in much demand. Or, you can buy a new one then shape it to give it a personality of its own. This is an unusual place to buy a real Western hat made of fur, felt or straw, or have your favorite Stetson restored to look like new. If you need a straw cowboy hat for the summer roundup, he has many from which to choose.

John bought the old, derelict limestone building next to Drovers Mercantile and restored it to a great place to shop. If Johnny isn't there, he may be out riding on one of his many two-wheeled cycles or jogging with his rescued Greyhound. You can usually find him somewhere about town. His phone number is on the front door of his shop.

The Ellsworth Arts Council and Gallery
214 N. Douglas
Downtown Ellsworth

Photo by Peg Britton

The gallery regularly exhibits art work, some for sale, of various Kansas artists. The hours are a little irregular, but it's well worth a stop when you find it open. The exhibits change frequently.

Kansas Originals
Marge Lawson, executive director
Wilson Kansas
233 Highway 232
Just off I-70 at Exit 206 North
Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas

Photo by Peg Britton

Kansas Originals is a non-profit corporation. They offer a unique, rewarding and educational experience featuring the work of over 500 Kansas artists and craftsmen. If it's made anywhere in Kansas, you'll find it here. Check the website for a list of artists and artisans and the most comprehensive array of Kansas arts, crafts and foods on the internet. If you want a remembrance or gift from Kansas, this is where you need to shop. You'll find tourist information, Kansas foods and and endless supply of hospitality. The coffee pot is always on.

Smoky Hill Winery
Steve Jennings and Kay Bloom, owners
237 Highway 232
Just off I-70 at Exit 206 North
Adjacent to Kansas Originals

This is the second location for the Smoky Hill Vineyards and Winery which is north of Salina. They make many varieties of very good wine, including a unique Ice Wine, made from frozen grapes using a special extraction process. They also carry wine accessories, gift items, t-shirts, caps, etc. Dinner baskets are available and convenient for excursions to nearby Wilson Lake. You can sample the wine before you buy.

Sincerely Yours Gift Shop
Jennifer Kepka, owner
2523 Avenue E
Downtown Wilson
Fax 785.658.3529

Photo by Peg Britton

Jennifer has a great little gift shop that is a hallway away from her bunkhouse-style lodge (see Places to Stay). The gift store is small, but packed with some unusual gifts and greeting cards that are not of the Hallmark variety. She keeps homemade kolaches, a famous Czech "roll dough with fruit filling", in a freezer for those people who have a craving for them and want them "now". She also carries all types of "Paper Moon" memorabilia. For those old enough to remember, the movie starred Ryan and Tatum O'Neal and was filmed, in part, in Wilson.

Remember to stop in the local Chamber of Commerce office for fliers, folders, guides, maps and other information that can point the direction to almost anywhere.

Ollie's Antique Treasures & Eatery
Sharon Corky and Jack Holloway, owners
2504 Avenue E
P.O. Box 206
Downtown Wilson
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday 1:00-5:00 p.m.

Photos by Peg Britton

After purchasing, remodeling and opening the Das Borell Haus Bed and Breakfast, Jack and Sharon Corky Holloway turned their sights to opening an establishment that had as many businesses as possible located under one roof. Something similar to a mini-mall. In March of 2003, they purchased the Old Shermerhorn and Lang Building, one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in downtown Wilson. They went to work and opened Ollie's Antique Treasures, North Central Kansas Newest Antique Mall , on June 1st, 2003.

The Old Shermerhorn and Lang Building, located downtown, is one of the oldest and most beautiful in Wilson. It was a landmark in the movie, Paper Moon . Take a good look at it, inside and out.

Inside you will find all the businesses any Mall should have, according to Corky. It is full of treasures, antiques of all kinds, collectibles, glass, handmade objects, jams and jellies that aren't antiques, Hunter's Women's Clothing, jewelry, and many things from Kansas Originals. It is also a shipping outlet.

In the front of the store, Corky has an old-fashioned ice cream store and lunch room. You'll find her homemade soups, sandwiches, pies, like pecan and whole berry and ice cream specialties to rave about.

LaShiro's Boutique
LaVange Shiroky, owner
2515 Avenue E
Downtown Wilson

Photo by Peg Britton

If you don't find the fabric you want here, you probably don't need it, says LaVange Shiroky, owner of the LaShiro's Boutique. People come from all over the state and always find the fabrics they are looking for in her store.

LaVange has her fabrics in same building in downtown Wilson where her father had his tire business throughout his lifetime. She has walked in her father's footprints for 31 years while selling fabrics in La Shiro's Boutique.

There are hundreds of bolts of fabric and thousands and thousands of yards of material. That may be an understatement. You'll find mounds of patterns and trim and edging and ribbon and buttons and everything that relates to sewing. There is a small pathway that winds through the maze of fabrics, trimming and clothes for the fuller figure, "Just like Dillard's," she adds. It's a unique, one-of-a-kind store.

Her most popular fabrics are the various patterns of the John Deere line. She goes to market a couple times a year to lay in a new supply of fabrics and always buys the latest design John Deere has to offer. She says it's the favorite of men customers.

LaVange has been active in community affairs during her many years of living in Wilson. She loves to promote Wilson, her shop and what is going on about town. She keeps saying she is going to sell her store, but she hasn't yet put it on the market. When she does, she'll sell it over the internet.

You still have time to stop in this unique store, meet LaVange and browse through the fabrics. It's a must on the list of Wilson's Places to See .

Al's Bar and Grill
Al Steinert, owner
2419 Avenue E.
Wilson, Kansas
785.658.3363 Bar Hours: early to late
785.658.3329 Grill Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Closed Monday

Photos by Peg Britton

Al's Bar and Grill has been a mainstay for Wilson and area residents for many long years with the restaurant in one building and the bar on the other side of an ever-swinging door. The buildings inside and out show a lot of wear from those who over the years have stopped there to enjoy broasted chicken, their famous French fries, Explorer Club award winning chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy, or an evening of beer and Karaoke on the bar side.

Noon specials include: Tuesday, broasted chicken; Wednesday, country-style barbecued ribs; Thursday, Mexican food; Friday, surprise. They serve freshly cut steaks. They also offer an assortment of breakfast items, burgers and sandwiches and the usual grill food. Nothing fancy, just good cooking.

Every third Sunday they feature a "bike run" (motorcycles); every fourth Friday is Karaoke night; they celebrate "Testical Festival" in May; "Czech Festival" in July; "Lual" in March. They periodically have live bands, dart and pool tournaments. Al's Grill is the site of political gatherings, Chamber of Commerce breakfasts and various meetings.

Made From Scratch
Jayne Reilly, owner
525 27th Street (Old Highway 40)
Wilson, Kansas
Open 7:a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Photo by Peg Britton

Jayne Reilly started a small eatery and carryout business a number of years ago and it grew with such speed and local enthusiasm that she bought a large building next door and opened a restaurant. She continues to feature the homemade specialties that brought so many people to the door of her small shop...homemade bierocks, pies, jam and jellies, breakfast rolls, sandwiches, etc.

Made from Scratch is just as the name implies, and is located in the blue building on the highway west of the blinking light. It's a popular place for home cooking where everything is "made from scratch". It's an area that accommodates large groups for parties and meetings.

She serves a noon buffet each day from 11:00 until 1:30 that is very popular among the locals. Tuesday she features Mexican food. On Saturday, her German buffet includes bierocks, kase noodles, green bean dumpling soup and other favorites. Sunday is panfried chicken buffet day with mashed potatoes, gravy, veggies and all the trimmings. A choice of several different kinds of pie she makes daily puts a finishing touch to her meals.

Her hamburgers are made from freshly ground beef and her steaks are fresh cuts, not frozen. Thursday night she is going to start serving chicken-fried steak, the Kansas Explorer way. She features steaks on Saturday night with a 16-ounce rib eye being among the most popular.

Jayne also does a very brisk catering and carryout business that is a fine enhancement to the Wilson area.

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