When most residents of Southeast Kansas consider gourmet cooking opportunities, they may think these resources exist solely in urban areas such as Kansas City. However, life+style offers not only gourmet cooking supplies, but also cooking classes to allow area residents to hone their culinary skills.
We asked Jim Pitts and Cynthia McFarlin how they arrived at their business idea, and their reply shows a commitment to the historic area of downtown Fort Scott.
Pitts explained that as the couple traveled, they saw “a lot of kitchen/gourmet shops, and since Cynthia loves to cook it seemed like a good fit.” Pitts said that he and his wife chose the name “life+style” because of the “combination of essential and aesthetic,” and that both owners “believe that preparing and sharing good food with family and friends is more important than pretentious settings or exotic ingredients.”
In addition, life+style is also active in the community. Pitts said that the business holds cooking classes “pretty much every week during the fall/winter/spring and once a month during the summer.” Pitts remarked that it had been “delightful” to find a number of good cooks in the area, and that those cooks have been open about sharing their knowledge and cooking experiences with others.
Pitts said that past cooking classes have covered topics “from basic stocks to sushi to tailgate appetizers,” a fairly wide range of food items and cooking skills. Pitts mentioned that the cooking classes are limited to 10-12 seats, and that “reservations are required, and most of them sell out.” Pitts said a few pluses of the cooking classes are that they are held in a “casual, relaxed atmosphere and you get to eat the lesson.” In addition, the cooking classes attract people in a wide range of ages and with everything from “novices and veterans in the kitchen.” According to Pitts, life+style has added private classes in which friends or social groups can “get together and do something different.”
Regarding what life+style enjoys about being a downtown business, Pitts said “We love historic architecture” and that he is often able to refer customers to other downtown business, and that other business return the favor. Of the community, Pitts said that “We have been amazed by the generosity of the community” through life+style’s “involvement with organizations like the Beacon and Mother to Mother Ministries,” and that “Our regular customers have been very supportive.” Pitts explained that as he and his wife came from a large city, “it has been very rewarding to have [customers] voluntarily tell us ‘we’re glad you’re here,’” and that they have been able to meet people from “all over the world” because of their location adjacent to the Fort Scott National Historic Site.
Pitts and McFarlin have also renovated both the interior and exterior of their building at 22 N. Main. According to McFarlin, the antique wood floor that now covers the interior was taken out of the Lincoln School in Pittsburg, KS before it was demolished. McFarlin said that the floor was “new” compared with the building in which it now resides, even though the floor is mid-1920s vintage. McFarlin also mentioned that she and her husband had done quite a bit of work to the bay windows on the upper story of the building, replacing wood and metal that had rotten or rusted through over the years.
In addition to their cooking classes, life+style offers a wedding registry and gifts “for all occasions,” Pitts said. “In general, we like to remind everyone to Shop Local!” Pitts said. “We carry some terrific gourmet foods and are always ready to help you have a culinary adventure!”