Category Archives: Business

Shepherd Team Auto Plaza to sell after 62 years in the family

The business of car sales has impacted the Shepherd family for generations, with current owner David Shepherd’s father, grandfather and great-uncle each being involved in the business.

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But that heritage will change in the upcoming weeks as Shepherd completes the sale of the Shepherd Team Auto Plaza in Fort Scott to the Briggs Auto Group and begins a different stage in his own life.

“I’m looking forward to really being able to move on to the next chapter,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd’s father bought the Fort Scott Ford dealership in 1952 when there were 13 car dealerships in the community. But that number decreased as the business changed over the years with consolidation and the addition of internet sales.

Shepherd said he first started helping his father’s business as a 10-year-old washing and cleaning the vehicles there.

After going through the Fort Scott education system and attending McPherson College, Shepherd turned down the opportunity to join the Peace Corps as well as an offer from the Ford Motor Company in order to stay closer to home and a woman he met at college, a decision he does not regret now after 43 years of marriage. Shepherd worked at a dealership in McPherson for a year before returning to Fort Scott in 1972, the same year he married his wife.

“My father was very happy when I came back,” Shepherd said of that move, which also allowed him to again work in the family business.

Working as a sales person and then a sales manager, Shepherd continued to learn about the business as he trained to become his father’s successor.

“As time went by I was given more and more responsibility,” Shepherd said, saying he was even given the task of improving the sales of certain areas of the dealership as it continued to expand to include other manufacturers’ vehicles.

Shepherd eventually took over the business from his father, having now run it for about the past 30 years. Shepherd’s father continued to visit the business however until Alzheimer’s prevented those visits.

In 1981 the dealership added Buick, GMC and Pontiac vehicles to those already on sale, including Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth. In 1988, they added Chrysler and also became one of just two dealerships in the country that year that were asked to add Toyota vehicles to their dealership.

“That was a big year for us,” Shepherd said. “We felt real honored.”

While the dealership continued to expand to include four manufacturers and employ about 50 employees, Shepherd said he never found the one employee that could be his successor. His two sons never showed an interest in the business and Shepherd said he never pressured them to follow his own profession.

“It takes a special kind of person to be a dealer in a small city,” Shepherd said, saying he has had great employees but none that were the perfect fit.

After searching for that right person for the past seven or eight years, Shepherd said a combination of his age, time in the business, no growth in the dealership and tiring of working six days a week for 43 years led him to the decision to sell the company.

After beginning the process before Christmas of last year, Shepherd said he came to an agreement with dealership owner Russell Briggs, who started in auto repair 40 years ago and currently owns nine other dealerships in Kansas. With the months-long process finally reaching an end, the dealership will switch hands within the next two to six weeks.

“He’s a hard worker and has been very successful,” Shepherd said of Briggs, who he said is known for taking good care of his customers and employees and having a high volume of vehicles. “I think that’ll be very good for the people in this area…We’re leaving the store in good hands, I believe.”

Despite selling that dealership, Shepherd said he will continue to own Bourbon County Cars, but looks forward to having more time available to be a part of the community through programs such as Circles and the Fort Scott Area Community Foundation.

“I don’t really think of myself as retiring,” Shepherd said, but doing something different.

Shepherd said the same employees will continue to work at the dealership and it will continue to service vehicles purchased there while it was Shepherd’s.

Since announcing the sale, Shepherd says he has heard from customers and friends who congratulated him but also said they were sorry he was selling.

“We appreciate greatly their support,” Shepherd said of those customers, saying because of them and his employees the dealership lasted 63 years instead of the average 10 years and sold about 100,000 vehicles.

Gordon Parks Celebration continues with Chamber Coffee

The Gordon Parks Museum used the weekly Chamber Coffee gathering as an opportunity to share information about this weekend’s 12th Annual Gordon Parks Celebration events with local business representatives Thursday morning.

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“I think this is one of Fort Scott’s hidden gems,” USD 234 business manager and Chamber Coffee moderator Gina Shelton said of the museum and the annual celebration.

Museum Executive Director Jill Warford described new exhibits and books the museum has to offer this year, including an exhibit featuring an interactive children’s area as well as one highlighting African American ancestry in Fort Scott.

“It’s about [Parks’] heritage and history,” Warford said of the new exhibit, which portrays segregation in Fort Scott including in schools, parks, pools and churches and also features early African American doctors, businessmen and law enforcement in the community.

Members of the community are invited to see the museum located at Fort Scott Community College during the weekend’s celebration event, which also includes tours of Fort Scott, a jazz concert Friday evening, reading of Parks’ narrative “Back to Fort Scott” and other events throughout the weekend.

Already county elementary students were able to participate in a poetry contest Wednesday evening.

“We have a lot of things going on this weekend,” Warford said, saying it is available to anyone and is a good opportunity for people to meet others in the community they might not meet otherwise.

Other announcements from local businesses and organizations included:

  • The Forks and Corks: Taste of Fort Scott event still has spaces open for food vendors who would like to participate. People are also still able to enter their salsa into the salsa contest. Live and silent auctions will also be held during the Nov. 7 event at Memorial Hall. Tickets are available for $20 or $25 at the door.
  • The Beacon organization in Fort Scott will again provide the opportunity for people to “adopt” a low income family from the area, purchasing Christmas gifts for the elementary-aged children. It will be made available the week before Thanksgiving.
  • Fort Scott Community College will be holding their homecoming event Saturday during the halftime of their football game against Independence at Frary Field. A tailgating event will provide free hot dogs and snacks starting at 11 a.m.
  • Members of the Young Professionals League of Bourbon County are encouraged to visit Fort Wise pumpkin patch, located six miles west of Fort Scott on Highway 54, with their families Sunday afternoon, 4-6 p.m.
  • New Wave Broadband will soon begin putting up a new tower near the Fort Scott Lake, which will help them provide better broadband and internet services to residents in that area.
  • The Halloween Parade will make its way through downtown Fort Scott Saturday morning beginning at 11 a.m. Other activities such as face-painting and photos at Walgreens will begin at about 10 a.m. while the Buck Run Community Center will hold a pumpkin carving contest earlier that morning.
  • A workshop sponsored by Union State Bank will be held Friday, Oct. 30, at the Empress Event Center, 9-11 a.m., with guest speaker Marc Willson sharing information for businesses concerning areas such as customer service and the use of social media.
  • Fort Scott Family Dental will be offering continuing education classes over the next couple months as well as offer six-month smiles, braces that work more quickly in less severe cases.

Young Professionals League provides Career Fair for students

For a fourth year, the Young Professionals League of Bourbon County hosted a career fair at the Fort Scott High School, giving junior and senior students a chance to learn about area businesses and other entities.

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Jason Hogue of Fort Scott Community College and Angela Meyer of Reynolds Law Firm helped organize this year’s event, which students attended in a rotation between classes.

“It’s a great event for juniors and seniors,” Meyer said.

Although some of those students have already decided on where they will attend college or what career field they will pursue, Meyer said the fair still gives them a glimpse of where they can be after finishing their college education.

Local and out-of-town entities were present to provide information of their businesses, including FSCC, Peerless, Medicalodges, Mercy Hospital, Fort Cinema, Pittsburg State University, Ward/Kraft, the city of Fort Scott, the Fort Scott fire and police departments, the United States Marine Corps and Army as well as other organizations and businesses.

City Commission honors City Attorney, receives project updates

The Fort Scott City Commissioners presented a framed certificate to City Attorney Bob Farmer for his 40 years of service to the community during their final October meeting Tuesday evening.

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“Thank you, Bob, for all you’ve done,” mayor Cindy Bartelsmeyer said.

The commission also approved New Wave Broadband’s tower to be built near the lake, on property leased to the Kansas Parks and Wildlife, in order to provide internet coverage to that area.

Commissioner Jim Adams said he has heard from residents who live near the lake that they are excited about the tower coming to their area.

Already, New Wave Broadband is using Fort Scott’s three water tower locations to provide internet services to area businesses and residents within line of sight of those towers. The new tower will allow them to broaden their reach.

“One of our concerns has always been reliability,” Harry Lee of New Wave Broadband said, saying they frequently have backup systems in place in case something goes wrong and also strive to “over-provide” their services rather than not provide a strong enough signal.

Work on the tower will begin in the near future.

Director of Finance Jon Garrison also gave an update on the clubhouse being built at the golf course, asking that the commissioners allow him to look for a contractor to help complete the interior of the building so it could be ready by March.

“I think we need to speed that up,” Garrison said of the project, which would not be complete by the spring without other assistance. “I think it very critical to get the clubhouse done.”

With the exterior of the building complete, Garrison said it could serve as a winter project for a contractor. Projects remaining include the wiring, plumbing, insulation, sheetrock and painting.

The commission agreed that Garrison should meet with contractors to discuss what the remaining work would cost.

Local Italian restaurant closes suddenly

Bella Roma, an Italian restaurant that came to Fort Scott less than a year ago and shared a building with Fort Scott Inn, closed its doors on Oct. 5, a move that came as a shock to some employees and the owners of the Fort Scott Inn.

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“We were actually surprised,” Fort Scott Inn owner Alex Desai said of the restaurant’s sudden closing.

Desai said he was out of town when the restaurant closed and he returned to find items from the building being packed up.

“I never got to truly speak to the owner himself,” Desai said, saying though his attempts to contact the restaurant owner Giovanni Elezi were unsuccessful, Desai was able to speak with the owner’s brother.

That brother said they had opened too many restaurants at one time, and slow business and not enough manpower led to their decision to close their Fort Scott, Iola and Nevada restaurant locations.

Desai said he has begun contacting others he believes may be interested in opening another restaurant at the same location.

SEK Financial Chamber Coffee discusses fall events

The weekly Chamber Coffee event hosted by SEK Financial Thursday morning gave representatives from businesses in Fort Scott as well as some high school students the opportunity to learn about SEK Financial and what other businesses in the community are doing in upcoming weeks.

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“We work with twenty-something different school districts,” representative Jim Sather said of SEK Financial located in the Industrial Park south of Fort Scott, but added they do much more than just working with schools, such as helping others through investments, insurance, IRAs, 401K plans, rollovers and other financial advice.

“We are able to stay plenty busy,” Sather said. “We love what we do.”

They have also held social security seminars, informing community members of Medicare and Medicaid facts. Businesses interested in inviting them to come speak on that or other financial topics can contact them.

“When we give advice, we just try to do the very best that we can here,” Sather said, saying their doors are open to those who would like to chat with one of their representatives.

Other announcements included:

  • The new Bleeding Kansas and Civil War exhibits at the Fort Scott National Historic Site are almost ready as final inspections are completed.
  • The Gordon Parks Celebration will begin next Thursday and will include videos, speakers, tours and other events such as a concert by a jazz band from Kansas City Friday evening.
  • The Halloween Parade will make its way through downtown Fort Scott Saturday Oct. 24, at 11 a.m. Families and businesses are invited to participate.
  • On Friday the 30th, the city will host a speaker who works with small businesses and will be discussing topics such as staying relevant to the changing customer and art as a business, giving business owners new ideas to help grow their company.
  • Tickets for the Forks and Corks: Taste of Fort Scott event, which will be held Nov. 7, continue to be sold around the city.

G & W Foods holds ribbon-cutting ceremony

Formerly Gene’s Heartland Foods, G & W Foods continued its Grand Opening weeks with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday afternoon, despite being delayed briefly when power in the store and the neighborhood went out.

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“The store looks fabulous,” Chamber of Commerce executive director Lindsay Madison said. “So thank you already for your investment in the community. We are very excited.”

Chris O’Hara said this is the 24th G & W Foods branch and the 10th in Kansas, with others located in Arkansas and Missouri. O’Hara said they are appreciative of the “wide open arms” the community has put forward in welcoming the new store to the area.

O’Hara said most of the employees are the same from when it was Heartlands except for the addition of the new manager, Will Rayburn. Each of the employees introduced themselves as well as noting how long they had been with the store, ranging from a few weeks to 20 years.

“I’m looking forward to a lot of great years here,” Rayburn said.

The store provides United States Department of Agriculture choice beef, a wide variety of organic foods as well as custom meat smoking and cake decorating. Starting next week, store ads will include coupons and fuel gas-savers cards will be available within the next 10 days.

They also have the Partners for Education program which allows customers to give their G & W receipts to their school, who can then return them to the store for one percent of those sales.

“It can be a very good thing for the community,” O’Hara said.

The ribbon-cutting event also included free hot dogs and refreshments for participants. The store continues its training for employees and organization of the store itself.

Family Dental hosts Chamber Coffee

During the weekly Chamber Coffee, the Fort Scott Family Dental hosts introduced themselves to other business leaders and also gave a vision for their goal in the community.

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“It’s a great group of people here at Fort Scott Dental, which makes it worthwhile,” Dr. Tim Crawford said of his team, which has been offering services to Fort Scott for the past four years with Crawford living in the city for the past year.

Crawford said they hope to expand their current building, adding about 800 square feet, in the near future so they can see more patients. They currently offer a variety of services including dental implants, orthodontics, root canals, whitening and extractions.

“There’s very little that you can’t get done in our office,” Crawford said, adding they are always accepting new patients.

Other announcements included:

  • G & W Foods will offer free hot dogs and refreshments Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with their ribbon-cutting ceremony at 12:15.
  • The third annual Triyakathon will start at 10 a.m. Saturday, with individuals or teams participating in running, kayaking and biking different portions of the trails at Gunn Park.
  • The Forks and Corks: Taste of Fort Scott event, to be held Nov. 7, continues to look for live auction items, food vendors who would like to participate and  entries for the salsa contest.
  • The Lowell Milken Center’s new building had its final cleaning done Thursday as it officially nears completion. Its doors will not open for a few months still as they now begin placing exhibits.
  • The Highlands Apartments will hold an open house Tuesday, 5-8 p.m., welcoming those interested in seeing the apartments.
  • Fort Scott’s Halloween Parade will make its way through downtown Oct. 24, with downtown businesses, and even those not located downtown, encouraged to participate.

City Commission approves agreement with fiber network

In their first meeting of the month, the Fort Scott City Commission decided to enter into an agreement with Kansas Fiber Network, allowing the company to lay fiber optic cable through the city to provide internet access for local businesses.

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The Kansas-based company with 25 employees and headquartered in Wichita will lay the cable along Indian Road from the west and then north on Horton Street and east on 18th Street before again running north on Judson Street.

Debbie Edwards, the company’s business development executive, said right now they will not provide their services to residential areas, but instead target customers such as government, education, medical, anchor institutions and similar entities.

The Kansas Fiber Network currently serves more than 400 communities and continues to expand, but without becoming exclusive or impersonal as some other major providers might.

“What I really like…is that we have a really big network but a small-town feel,” Edwards said of the company, which she said is staffed by Kansans.

Fort Scott’s director of information technology Slayden Davis said he has been working with the company over recent months and said he would call their services a “major backbone for our neck of the woods.”

The quorum of commissioners, with Mayor Cindy Bartelsmeyer and commissioner Lucas Cosens absent, approved the agreement unanimously.

The commission also heard a report from Rebecca Brubaker, executive director of the Safehouse Crisis Center in Pittsburg, which provides refuge for battered women who may have suffered from domestic abuse or stalking.

The center serves seven Kansas counties, housing about 40 from Bourbon County each year while serving about 750 in total annually, helping them with immediate needs as well as trying to help them become self-sufficient.

The commission decided to donate $1,000 toward Safehouse’s $1.2 million campaign for a larger facility.

In executive session, the commissioners decided to extend their contract with city manager Dave Martin another five years while also giving him a two percent raise.

 

Fort Scott businesses, community participate in Manufacturing Day

Numerous local manufacturing businesses gave tours of their plants to members of the community Friday as part of the Manufacturing Day recognized in Fort Scott on Oct. 2, after a city proclamation earlier this month.

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Extrusions, Inc., Labconco, Niece Products, Carlisle Belts and the Water Treatment Plant of Fort Scott opened their doors and their manufacturing areas for guests to see how their products are made and how employees from the Fort Scott community help create items that are used around the world.

Visitors to the businesses, including groups of students from Fort Scott and surrounding areas, learned about the 40,000 belts produce by Carlisle Belts each day, with the business making its billionth belt earlier this year. Labconco makes units used for experiments, forensics and other laboratory procedures, using parts built at Extrusions, Inc., to help make the units shipped around the world. Meanwhile, the water treatment plant processes at least two million gallons of water from the Marmaton River each day as well as storing almost two million gallons of water on site at any given point and testing the quality of the water every two hours. Other participating manufacturers also shared details of the work they do.

Other local businesses had exhibits and demonstrations at the east campus of Fort Scott Community College, including Osage Cabinets and Furniture, Peerless Products, Inc., Ward/Kraft, Inc., and other FSCC groups with John Deere and Harley Davidson.

The city commissioners declared Oct. 2, Manufacturing Day during their most recent meeting in September to honor those manufacturers and give the community a chance to learn about the local manufacturing plants.

Fort Scott welcomes home new business owners

Fort Scott and the Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony during their weekly Chamber Coffee event Thursday for one of the newest businesses in the community, Hartman Spine and Joint.

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Dr. Grant Hartman was born and raised in Fort Scott, receiving his bachelor’s degree in biology from Pittsburg State University and then getting his doctor of chiropractic degree from Logan University in St. Louis. But he and his wife, Dr. Heather Davis, have since returned to Fort Scott and opened their chiropractor office.

Hartman admitted that he always enjoyed Fort Scott but did not truly appreciate it until he left for four years. But Hartman said he is now happy to bring this service to the city, where his and his wife’s family still live.

“Family is what it’s all about,” Hartman said.

Hartman said their goal with their practice is to redefine what it means to offer chiropractic care, not just treating the results of an issue but addressing the cause of the problem. Hartman said he wants to give patients a diagnosis and a treatment plan in order to help fix that problem, saying he does not want a patient to come in for the same problem twice.

“We’re so excited that you came back home,” chamber director Lindsay Madison said.

Other business owners made announcements concerning upcoming events including:

  • Fort Scott will participate in Manufacturing Day Friday, with booths set up at the east campus of Fort Scott Community College as well as tours offered at different participating businesses in town.
  • The Pioneer Kiwanis are looking for advertisers for their placemat fundraiser, one of the biggest they hold annually.
  • G & W Foods will hold their grand opening event next Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., providing free hot dogs as well as deals the entire week. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will also be held during that time.
  • Fort Scott Community College will host the annual Gordon Parks Celebration Oct. 22-24.
  • The senior class of Fort Scott High School will hold a chili feed before their homecoming football game Oct. 9, with proceeds going toward their activities through the school year. Tickets will be $5 for adults and $3 for children.
  • The Chamber of Commerce’s Forks and Corks: Taste of Fort Scott fundraiser will be held Nov. 7, at Memorial Hall. About 10-15 different food vendors will be on hand as well as numerous drink options.
  • The bike trails of Gunn Park will host a bike skills workshop Oct. 3, at 10 a.m. at shelter house #6, for anyone interested in becoming more skilled riders. The 3rd annual Triyakathon will be held on Oct. 10, with individual participants or teams running, kayaking and biking different sections of the event. Hot dogs will be served after both weekend events at Gunn Park.

Velocity Tactics set to open doors by spring

The building that once housed Key Industries, Inc., near the railroad tracks on Wall Street, is now used by a new business to manufacture ammunition and sell other tactical clothing and gear, currently through online sales.

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“It’s going to be a cool place for people who are outdoor people,” Greg Fess said of Velocity Tactics, which could open in the next few months.

Fess, who oversees the work site, said the idea for Velocity Tactics began about three years ago as a side project started by Ryan Kraft, son of Roger Kraft of Ward Kraft in Fort Scott. Kraft wanted to find a way to make improvements to bullets, which Fess said have seen little change since World War I.

With those three years of research and development, which continues even today, Kraft and others have been able to create a lead-free bullet, using solid copper instead of a copper jacket and lead, making it lighter and more precise as well as able to cause more damage to a soft target.

“It needs to perform better than what’s out there,” Fess said of the viability of their business, saying it has been a team effort to find a way to achieve that.

But so far they have found success with their products, continuing to develop their manufacturing methods, making sure they test a high percentage of the bullets to make sure they are of the best quality. While they originally wanted to start selling earlier, the team instead focused on becoming experts on their product as well as the business first.

Fess said their products – which currently includes ammunition as well as firearms, gear, knives, targets and tactical gear and accessories – have been available for purchase online for about a year and are being used around the nation.

But on a more local level, Fess said local law enforcement officers have tried out the different bullets in comparison to those they currently use. Velocity Tactics will also sell other gear the local sheriff’s office and police department use, allowing them to buy locally instead of from out of town.

“That will be cool to keep all that in the community,” Fess said.

With their brand name spreading, Fess and others involved in the rising company have already been on hunts with others who purchased or use their bullets. The store in Fort Scott will include a trophy room displaying some of those animals, which currently will include a hog, buffalo, elk as well as an alligator that broke state records in Florida for its size of more than 13 feet in length and weighing almost 1,000 pounds.

Velocity Tactics continues to focus on letting others know of their product through online marketing, improving their website and manufacturing the product while also getting the store in Fort Scott ready to open its doors.

Fess said they have had to do a lot of work on the building to make it fit with their plans for it, adding they could continue projects and expansions on it for the next five years. But already, the first floor of the Velocity Tactics location is nearly complete, with a third of that space to be used for the store while the remaining two thirds are reserved for manufacturing.

Work continues on the second floor, where Fess said they hope to eventually have 100 machines in operations to make the bullets.

The store location is set to open within the next few months or by spring of 2016 at the latest. Those interested in purchasing online can do so today through their website.