It was a red brick structure, roof caved in, windows gone, interior and floors rotted into the cellar. Not an uncommon sight in ghost towns across rural America.
This one was at Volland a railroad shipping point for Flint Hills cattle in the early days of Wabaunsee County.
A century earlier it had been the Kratzer Brothers General Mercantile, general store serving the area ranching community.
What became generically referred to as The Volland Store was actually much more, according to area old timers’ memories.
Thursday evening was for family shopping and visiting. Community picnics were Sundays on the west lawn.
The teacher at the nearby one room school stopped by most afternoons, and children dropped in for a penny candy.
Charismatic storekeeper Otto Kratzer greeted country patrons until his death in the early ’70s. Initially family descendants tried to maintain the building, but that became impossible from a distance.
Three decades of Mother Nature’s toll was heavy on The Volland Store becoming a skeleton of the past. Yet those strong brick walls never wavered.
From urban Mission Hills Jerry and Patty Reece found locale acreage comforting fulfilling lifelong fascinations of ranch living with horses.
“The Volland Store was in danger of being torn down, yet begged to be saved,” forever preservationist Patty Reece said.
“We had restored old buildings before and this one was too good to just let melt away,” Jerry added.
“It held such an important place in the area making eyes light up when old stories were told,” Patty claimed.
Opportunity to buy the destructed brick frame was anxiously accepted by the Reece couple who found dire undertaking ahead.
“There was only one way in and out down broken steps through a miraculously existing opening basement door,” Patty said.
Hand laborers filled five gallon buckets to clear rubble so equipment could be moved in for the incomprehensible major renovation.
A combination of curiosity and disbelievers fueled interest and then strong support for bringing The Volland Store back to life.
“It was a broad effort of many over two years returning the building to its rightful community place,” Jerry appreciated.
With significant restorations, The Volland Store reopened in June 2015 as an art gallery and community gathering place.
“We have a love of art, music, poetry and science as well as all of nature, ranch and Western history,” Patty commented.
“Today, The Volland Store is a place for art and community sitting alongside a scenic Flint Hills byway,” Jerry said.
“Historic ranches populate the landscape as trains roll by what some have described as the community living room,” Patty added.
“The neighbors along Mill Creek Valley are mostly ranchers, many descendants of homesteaders,” Jerry added. “They take pride in the area history and their ancestors who carved a living from the hills and valleys. Newcomers are drawn to the area by the Flint Hills extraordinary beauty with its culture and traditions.”
Since reopening as an art gallery, The Volland Store has hosted artists, writers, poets, scientists and musicians making regularly scheduled presentations.
“Some have stayed a few days or weeks, either in the Loft at the store or the bunkhouse at our ranch,” Patty said.
Visitors are said to be inspired by the Flint Hills beauty while connecting with the rural cattle country lifestyle.
“It has become apparent there is mutual value providing space and time for creative folks,” Patty continued.
“Those talented people need time to think, interact and create far from distractions of their daily lives,’ Jerry added.
An artist residency program has evolved being enhanced by renovations of other buildings along Volland Road. “We welcome new partners to this venture,” Patty invited.
The latest addition to the Reece’s Volland “dream” is an outdoor arena for horse events. “We have built a facility to host horse shows, equestrian events, and educational clinics,” Jerry said. “It’ll be a place for cowboys, wannabes and all horse lovers.”
Inaugural event at The Volland Arena is a traditional Vaquero Equestrian Performance by the Charro Jerry Diaz Family on July 27.
“Featuring the romance and beauty of world class horsemanship, there’ll be food, music and an art show,” Jerry Reece promised.
The “Law of the Saddle Art Show” begins at 5:30, with the Diaz family and their Andalusian horses performing at 7:30.
An especial event is set Friday evening, July 26, at the Reece Ranch on Trails End Road.
“Come meet and greet the Diaz family, their horses and Glory, the American Mini,” Reece invited. “Bring a chair, favorite beverage and snack if you’d like for a casual visit with friends and neighbors.”
More about The Volland Store, past presenters, future schedule of talents, tours, and newsletter subscriptions can be found at www.thevollandstore.com.
Most energetic personable congenial loving the Western lifestyle Jerry and Patty Reece will respond to calls 913-522-6270, and email [email protected].