By RON WILSON
Kansas State University
“A few years ago, there were eight or nine empty buildings along our main street. Now, it’s even hard to find an open office space downtown.
This quote comes from a businesswoman who has watched the resurgence of business in her Council Grove community. This downtown independent business revival was led by women.
Last week we caught up with Jennifer Kassebaum, who recently opened a bookstore in Council Grove. His business is one of many new businesses downtown. Julie Hower, President and CEO of Farmers & Drovers Bank in Council Grove, recently convened a group of downtown business owners. They met in the office of Zoey Bond, executive director of the Council Grove Area Trade and Tourism Association, and talked about their businesses.
Lindsey Forge is the owner of Weathered Wood Home, a vintage home decor furnishing company.
As a mother of four, she was a stay-at-home mom for eight years and found she enjoyed woodworking and building furniture. “It became a hobby that got out of control,” Lindsey said with a smile.
She started using reclaimed barn wood to make picture frames and expanded to offer candles and many other types of home decor products. In addition to her online business, she opened a downtown boutique in Council Grove in 2016. See www.weatheredwoodhome.com.
In 2020, Nicky Tiffany opened The Territory Ballroom, a coworking, hosting and events space in a historic downtown building.
In addition to offices available at short notice, it has an open space designed for weddings and other events, as well as a sumptuous bridal suite. See www.theterritoryballroom.com.
Lindsay Gant and Deidre Knight, their husbands and a friend are associated with Riverbank Brewing, a new brewery in the converted Armory building in downtown Council Grove.
It is located next to the Neosho River, with craft beers on tap and indoor and outdoor venues to sample them. The facility is also available to rent for special events.
Craft beers on tap include Thrill Hills Kolsch, Rio Salado Mexican Lager, Legends Never Die Chocolate Carrier, and one called The IPA With No Name. Craft cocktails, charcuterie boards and more are on the menu. See www.riverbankbrewing.com.
In this same building, Deidre operates an online screen printing and embroidery business called Twin Lakes Tees, as well as a social media and marketing business called Story Media.
A few blocks west along Main Street is a building with a garage door in the front. Looks like it could have been a car dealership years ago. It is now the home of a business called The Dealership Building, owned by Amanda McDonald and her husband.
It is a multipurpose space with a retail store selling antiques and other specialty goods such as soaps, candles, and candy on consignment. The Concessionaire also offers a micro-shop space and an incubator kitchen for other entrepreneurs. See www.thedealershipcg.com.
This is all in addition to Dee Gieswein’s Farmer’s Insurance Agency and Shirley and Ken McClintock’s Trail Days Café and Museum being the focus of Kansas Profiles’ latest features.
“When I started, I was the only woman in our business district,” Gieswein said.
Bond added: “In addition to these women, we have six other women-owned businesses.”
What drives these women to open these new businesses in Council Grove?
● “I love my community,” Gieswein said, adding, “Without Julie (Hower and his community bank), this wouldn’t have been here.”
●“It’s for my children,” said Nicky Tiffany.
●“We moved here ten years ago, and my husband and I chose to be here,” Lindsay Forge said.
●“I am so grateful that the community is so supportive,” said Amanda McDonald.
How exciting to find these female entrepreneurs leading a business recovery in the rural community of Council Grove, home to 2,140 people. Now it’s rural.
For more information about the community, visit www.councilgrove.com.
From gated downtown buildings to a vibrant set of new businesses, Council Grove has experienced this downtown renaissance. We congratulate these rural women entrepreneurs for making a difference through their initiative and investment.
Thanks to their efforts, this downtown is experiencing an upturn.