Spotlight on an Innovative Business
The Spotlight on a Innovative Business is a monthly feature focusing on businesses doing extraordinary things during difficult times. The spotlight is presented in collaboration with Miami County Economic Development, Louisburg Chamber or Commerce, Osawatomie Chamber of Commerce, Paola Chamber of Commerce and Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce. Businesses featured in the Innovative Business Spotlight are nominated by their local chamber of commerce with nominations rotating among communities.
- June 2021 - The Drive-In at Midway
- May 2021 - ASKC Powell Observatory
- April 2021 - Price Chopper
- Feb. 2021 - Wright Way Homes
- Jan. 2021 - KRS Corporation
The Drive-In at Midway, located on 327th Street “midway” between Osawatomie and Paola, is a gem for the region. Boasting its title as one of a few drive-ins left in the state, the Drive-In has been a memory-maker for generations of movie-goers.
The new owners, Michael and Heather Wood, were excited to open for the 2021 season after remaining closed in 2020. They took advantage of the down time last year to make improvements to the property and even underwent a rezoning process to allow different activities at the site.
In fact, the Drive-In at Midway is no longer just the “movie” spot in Miami County, they are hosting a multitude of different events from swap meets to special “show and sell” events accompanied by live bands and food trucks. Swap meets occur each Saturday morning, weather permitting. There is a $15 vendor fee and $2 fee for patrons. The Woods family has proven to be resilient and flexible working with the vendors and attendees to adjust events based on weather and local expectations.
They are continuing to make improvements to the property and are open to new opportunities such as private events. As an example, they have expanded the show season for 2021 opening in April and planning to remain open well into the fall rather than closing at Labor Day.
Make sure you’ve got The Drive-In at Midway’s Tow and Go Show event on your calendar for June 19-20. This event will welcomes anyone wanting to sell or buy boats, RVs, trailers, and related gear in a forum to haggle for the best bargain. Dealers are welcome to attend this event as well. There will be a live band, food trucks and vendors.
You can find information on their upcoming movies on the marquee out front as well as on Facebook at The Drive-In at Midway – Paola/Osawatomie. Tickets are $10 for adults and $3 for children. Drive-In gates open at 7 p.m., and the first movie will begin at dark. Be sure to “Like” the new page on Facebook and show support!
Astronomical Society of Kansas City
Volunteers at Powell Observatory are eager to start the new season and celebrate their 35th year in Louisburg after being closed due to COVID last year.
The Astronomical Society of Kansas City is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to promoting amateur astronomy to members and the public. The ASKC operates the observatory to provide opportunities for astronomy research and education.
After presenting virtual sessions last year, activities for the 2021 season will be onsite. Volunteers have moved activities outside and will display images from the observatory’s 30-inch mirror telescope on a large, outdoor screen. Because the events will be outside, visitors are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs.
Activities will range from touring the night sky to listening to an educational presentation on an interesting astronomy topic, and even participating in special astronomical events. Visiting the Powell Observatory gives families and individuals the perfect opportunity to be outdoors while still learning about astronomy and astronomical events.
The facility opens for the season at 8 p.m. May 7 and returns May 21. Visitors will want to consult their website, www.askc.org, for future dates. Donations are requested and assist with offsetting operational costs Suggested donations for persons 12 and older is $8 while children five to 11 years old are $5.
The Powell Observatory has one of the largest telescopes open to the public in a five-state area, the Ruisinger Telescope. Built in 1984 by ASKC members, Powell is located at Lewis-Young Park, just north of Louisburg, KS.
Nominated by the Louisburg Chamber of Commerce.
Queen’s Price Chopper changing the grocery store game
When it comes to grocery stores, Queen’s Price Chopper in Spring Hill may seem ordinary on the outside but it’s the inside that makes it special.
“A grocery store plays a very essential role in a small community,” Barry Queen, managing member of Queen’s Price Choppers, said. “…Our culture and one of the things we believe is to support the community that supports you.”
Opening in 2004, the Queen family has put in hard work, upgrading for Spring Hill residents and U.S. 169 travelers, he said. In the last year, the store replaced all parking lot and track lighting with LED lights; reconstructed the parking lot; added new, lightweight shopping carts; implemented online grocery ordering and delivery; installed new self-checkouts and perhaps the most interesting, an ultraviolet disinfection system in the air vents.
All five Queen’s locations utilize Synexis — an innovative Lenexa-based bio-defense system installed in ventilation — which turns air into Dry Hydrogen Peroxide and dramatically reduces any viruses, bacteria, mold, and odors in the air and on surfaces.
“Our experiences with COVID have been very minimal in that location and I believe a lot of that has to do with that system,” Queen said of the July 2020 installation. “You can’t see it … it resides inside the big air vents in the ceiling. It’s 100 percent safe.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the company shifted their focus to keep their employees — deemed essential workers in the pandemic — safe and stress-free, Queen said
ough COVID, our people have been stressed and very challenged,” Queen said. “We’re out in the mix of it every single day. We attacked very quickly by installing the plexiglass shields and the Synexis system, implementing social distancing and hand sanitizers everywhere.
A 10 percent bonus on every hour worked was immediately implemented along with several rounds of gift cards to every employee to help with necessities.
“It equated to a lot of money … to show our support and them showing up every day and risking their own health with COVID concerns,” he said. “Our people are front and center. …I had to go into protect mode to keep both our employees and our customers as safe as possible dealing with this pandemic.”
When COVID-19 also brought on a nationwide meat shortage, the company began to think in different ways to still bring customers the meat they needed, Queen said. They were able to utilize their veteran meat cutters to repurpose meats originally intended for restaurants, he said, allowing the store to never run out of meat.
In the immediate future, the Queen family has big plans for the Spring Hill location, he said. A remodel of all perishable sections including deli, floral, produce and dairy is coming soon along with remodels of existing check stands and customer service areas.
“We believe that customer service is what differentiates you from your competition. You have to be on top of your game. I believe we are, and we compete very well.”
By Kate Shupert for Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce
With a passion for home improvement and a fascination with DIY before DIY hit the mainstream, Kirk and Shelagh Wright have been changing the face of Osawatomie one house at a time.
Remodeling homes has been this power couple’s hobby for almost three decades and is how a family idea in the late 1990s evolved into Wright Way Homes. From the total fixer uppers to the updated face lifts, they have experience with it all.
For the first two-thirds of this couple's “hobby career,” they remodeled homes with the intent of keeping them as rental properties. During that time, they have built a solid reputation for their catalog of well-maintained and upgraded properties. In 2016, the duo bought their first house to “flip” and sell outright, which started a new path of adventure. They soon found house rehab keeping them busy enough to quit their day jobs and focus entirely on their labor of love.
Wright Way Homes spent the second half of 2020 working on something new, even for them. They invested in a large, empty piece of property on the east side of Osawatomie with the vision to split the lot and build two new houses from the ground up. They knew that Osawatomie had not had a new build in almost five years, so this idea was going to be something of a gamble.
The Wrights have seen the new builds popping up for sale 10-20 miles north of town, and knew that Osawatomie’s proximity to the KC metro area would be a boon to people looking to live in a small, charmingly quiet town and commute north as needed for work. This same formula had led to developments in other areas of the county, so what could this mean for the future of Osawatomie? Kirk and Shelagh Wright were willing to put in the sweat equity to find out.
During the new build process, Kirk and Shelagh have kept their social media page up-to-date with plenty of progress pictures and detailed peeks into the sites, which in turn has kept a lot of residents on their toes. They have had countless people stop by to check out the new builds, chat about the process, and share their ideas for the future.
The public was able to view the finished builds during a January open house hosted by their realtor, and daughter, Britnie Wright. Despite poor weather, the event had a great turn out, and both houses were under contract within two days of hitting the market.
Speaking about their latest project, Shelagh has declared her favorite part of building from scratch to be “NO DEMO! We saved so much time, and it’s nice to be able to start putting it together from day one as opposed to tearing it all apart first.”
“Going to work everyday, doing something you truly enjoy, is such a blessing,” she said. “Being able to share the whole experience with people you love, is both an added bonus and incentive to keep going!”
Kirk agreed. “Honestly, it’s a hobby and passion we share together. And, it brings us closer… mostly.”
Stay up to date with all that the Wrights have going on by “Liking” them on Facebook. The couple can also be reached by phone at (913) 731-0518.
Nominated by the Osawatomie Chamber of Commerce
Tucked away just off Broadway in downtown Louisburg is a company whose only limits are the limits of the owner’s imagination.
Welcome to 107 S. Broadway and KRS Corporation, a company that opened in 2004 manufacturing products for retail, restaurants and movie theater environments.
Kevin Stoops is the man with the imagination and the company currently holds more than 25 patents on various products.
“We manufacture products used in the restaurant and theater industry. We offer some over-the-counter products but the majority of our products are of our own design.”
Stoops has worked in the electronics design industry for decades and when he moved to the area working for a restaurant company in the IT department. He combined his two backgrounds and created a Kitchen Display System (KDS) generic keypad for uses on virtually any restaurant kitchen management system regardless of system type. In the restaurant the keypads are called Bump Bars. KDS helps workers maintain order accuracy and KRS Bump Bars are the tools they interact with. KRS Bump Bars are used in many large chain restaurants around the world down to your local QuikTrip kitchens.
It wasn’t long into his business venture that Stoops’ imagination was growing faster than his available work space. Living just outside Louisburg, Stoops looked local and found a building suitable for his needs in the downtown area in a former grocery store.
Stoops didn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic slow him or his employees down. He turned his skills to creating the Tough Shield, a protective desktop shield, sneeze and cough guard. His design is simple to use, extremely clear, flexible, has a pass-through opening of 10” x 4” and is free standing or comes with optional feet.
The products developed by KRS Corporation to serve needs during the pandemic lies at the heart of Stoops’ advice in starting a business.
“It’s going to be a lot of hard work and take a lot of patience. You must know your market. Know what you are selling. Know who you will be selling to. Plan ahead, be ready to expand and adjust as needed.”
All things Stoops and his team have done in 2020.
Nominated by the Louisburg Chamber of Commerce
- Dec. 2020 - Seats Inc.
- Nov. 2020 - One Way Deliveries
- Oct. 2020 - On Point Catering
- Sept. 2020 - Social: Managed.
- August 2020 - BlackHawk Apartments
- July 2020 - Be Well Spa
Seats Incorporated brings innovation to Spring Hill with their outside-the-box thinking and care for their employees.
Seats Inc. is a seating manufacturer that provides diverse options to a wide variety of applications including industrial trucks, over-the-highway semi-tractors, off-highway equipment, earth moving equipment, military and emergency vehicles.
Already established in Wisconsin, Seats Inc. expanded their innovative practices to Spring Hill in 2018. They are now one of the largest seat manufacturers in the United States. The company utilizes highly advanced polyurethane foam-making machines as well as powder-coating lines, robotic welding stations and built-in communication stations help train employees in their assembly line.
Seats Inc. has also come up with some creative ways to keep their 200 employees happy. Employee satisfaction surveys are conducted frequently in addition to wage increases. They also offer onsite chiropractic services and hope to offer full-service medical clinics, similar to those in their home plant in Reedsburg, Wisconsin. Of course, all work and no play would make for a dull workplace, so Seats Inc. makes sure to inject some fun into their employees’ day.
“There’s a lot of quirky things [Halloween costume and ugly sweater contests] that we’re trying to do to create that family culture that we have up in Wisconsin and trying to incorporate that here,” Tim Stevens, general manager, said. “Seats prides itself on growing people from coming in and working on the shop floor and going to higher levels.”
In addition to manufacturing seats and caring for their employees, the company also thought outside the box to come up with creative partnerships within the community. Fastenal, a supplier of industrial goods, leases a space inside the facility. That has allowed the Seats Inc. plant to remain stocked as well as supply goods to others in the area. Fastenal also brought personal protective equipment (PPE) vending machines to the plant, allowing employees to remain safe.
Another innovative partnership came in the form of an unused commercial kitchen at the facility and a pastry chef needing space. Seats Inc. reached out to Lupita’s Kitchen, another Spring Hill business, who was needing room to grow her baked goods venture and offering customers a storefront. In November, Lupita’s Kitchen opened inside the commercial kitchen at the Seats Inc. facility.
“We’re here to stay,” Stevens said. “We’re not a company that hops around to find different opportunities. We’re a growing company in this area that’s doing a lot for their employees.”
Seats Inc. is currently accepting applications for their Spring Hill plant. To learn more about Seats Inc. or to apply for a job, visit their website at www.seatsinc.com
If there is one word in the business world that has heard a lot lately, it would be “pivot.”
Jeff Riggs, owner of One Way Deliveries, created a restaurant food-delivery service and knows a thing or two about that word. It could be said that he was pivoting before it became cool.
“I worked as a commercial bricklayer in the Kansas City area, most of the time with J.E. Dunn. I had gone back to bricklaying after being a stay-home dad and homeschool teacher for 12 years. A lot had changed in the industry since I last worked, and I was older. For those reasons and a shoulder injury, I decided I had to find another career at 50 years old. After some time looking for a job, my wife and I decided to start up a small delivery business. The first thought was a courier business, then we found a company that helps restaurant delivery businesses get off the ground, so we went that route,” Riggs said.
And so, in January of 2020, One Way Deliveries was born. After contemplating a startup in Overland Park, Jeff and his wife changed direction and launch in Miami County’s under-served market starting with Louisburg.
“The competition in large-population areas is oversaturated, and I couldn't compete with their marketing campaigns. We love serving Miami County. We click with the people so much better,” Riggs said.
Two months after their launch, the shutdowns began. Not only was it “perfect timing,” as Riggs and his wife kept hearing, but they realized One Way Deliveries was needed in Paola as well.
Jeff has some advice for those looking to start their own business, “Take the time to research before you take the leap, and when you do, be prepared to not have many days off.”
One Way Deliveries also hopes to be beneficial for senior citizens but has discovered that new markets bring new challenges.
“One unexpected problem is the technology barrier for senior citizens. Since Covid-19, we have had a lot of senior citizens wanting to use our service,” Riggs said. Those who aren’t technology-friendly are encouraged to call One Way Deliveries directly.
Stretching beyond food delivery, One Way Deliveries has added grocery delivery for customers who are seniors, handicapped, or individuals facing quarantine. They also offer a courier service for medical centers, law firms, real estate offices, etc. To make arrangements, call them at 877-375-4248.
Customers can take advantage of the convenience One Way Deliveries offers by visiting their website, www.OneWayDeliveries.com. They can also be found on Facebook. Pro Tip: first time customers are offered a discount code, so take advantage of it.
Nick and Anna Norman are no strangers to the food industry. Name a position, and they have some experience with it.
These two big dreamers yearned for the ability to work for themselves and to create a business. They also longed for small-town living. As a result, On-Point Catering found its home in Osawatomie, where they have been able to focus on providing customized menus with the highest level of hospitality. They pride themselves on their ability to offer fresh ingredients prepared with love and served with the quality every guest deserves.
Chef Anna has had a passion for cooking her entire life. In her teenage years, she began to combine the limited ingredients around her, creating meals that people continuously commented were, “On point.” Chef Nick started working in kitchens as a young man washing dishes at a family-owned Italian restaurant in his hometown of Overland Park, Kansas. During the last 24 years he has risen from a humble dish washer to running one of the busiest kitchens in Kansas City.
Both chefs attended JCCC’s culinary program and have a knack for all things tasty and delicious.
“First and foremost is service - the food speaks for itself. We provide a price point that is competitive with fast food, but it is a healthy option at a lower price,” said Anna Norman.
The prepared meal program, one of their greatest successes so far, was created largely due to COVID-19. It was an idea that had started on a small scale in November 2019, but it grew out of necessity in March 2020. COVID-19 shook their catering business when previously booked events were cancelled. So they got creative and threw themselves into their prepared meals work. The Normans added a delivery option which really made them stand out from their competitors.
Since that time they have served meals in Overland Park, Olathe, Shawnee, Lenexa, Kansas City, Independence, Liberty, Grain Valley, Lee's Summit, Blue Springs, Grandview, Peculiar, Raymore, Lane, Rantoul, Fontana, Paola and Osawatomie.
“We have gone from preparing around 40 meals a week to most recently 450 meals and 70 salads in one week,” said Anna Norman.
In fact they’ve become so busy that they have recently said goodbye to some of their KC friends allowing to focus more on Miami County.
“Osawatomie picked us! The door opened last year when we bought our property south of town. Then the shop came up for sale. Miracles abound! We are in the city of history and promise. Nick and I are looking forward to contributing positively toward that,” said Anna Norman.
On Point Catering is located at 710 6th Street in Osawatomie where they offer delivery and curbside pickup options. They will have new signage soon and are in the process of a brand makeover. Visit their website at onpointcateringkc.com and follow them on Facebook to stay up-to-date and check out their revolving menus.
Before forming Social: Managed., David Alexander owned a website design firm in Kansas City that was ranked one of the best in Kansas City by Ingram Magazine. His firm had constructed more than 1,000 websites in the Kansas City area before he sold his shares to start a solo venture. That venture became Social: Managed., a full digital agency with a mission to provide customers with a seamless marketing experience across all of their digital assets.
Social: Managed. has been located in Louisburg for over four years. As a Louisburg High School alumni, Alexander wanted to give back to his hometown and bring jobs to the local community, “Many commute into the city and I knew there was a lot of talent I could pull from and keep them here in town. Most of my employees are from Louisburg and Paola.”
That decision has paid off in 2018 when Social: Managed. was ranked in the Top 100 Social Media Marketing Agencies in the United States by UpCity.com. “That was unexpected and a game changer,” Alexander said. “Since then we have grown rapidly and now ranked in to Top 100 in multiple categories. In March we were awarded the 2020 National Excellence Award over 32,000 other agencies. It has been a fun ride, and I can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store for us.”
The company’s growing list of accolades is a sign of the talent behind the scenes. Their video production division has won seven Emmys and 13 Emmy nominations. Alexander noted that their success in attracting top industry professionals is down to commitment. “I could not have the team I have today or the awards we have if I did not reinvest in the company,” he said.
For any entrepreneurs looking to build their own start-up, Alexander has some advice, "Take as little money out of the company as you can to survive for the first two years. Invest in your business and employees. By year three, you will be able to reap the benefits of the structure you have built.”
His key takeaway is more simple:"Trust in yourself and invest in your dream."
PooPrints is a program utilized by Yarco, Blackhawk’s property management company, to keep public spaces tidy from pet waste. Here’s how it works: When tenants move into the apartment community, a DNA swab is taken from their dog’s mouth. That sample is then kept on file. When a pile of unpleasantness is found by maintenance staff or property managers in public areas, a sample is collected and sent off to a laboratory for testing. If the test comes back with a match in the community, the owner is then fined for not cleaning up after their pet.
Now used at other properties managed by Yarco, the program was started in the Blackhawk community after residents kept encountering large amounts of pet waste, according to Brenda York-Keegan, community manager. Now, they’re virtually poop-free.
“It’s been a good thing because now people walk their dogs. They know if they don’t pick up the waste, and we find it, there’s a financial consequence,” York-Keegan said. “It keeps the grounds looking nicer for all residents.”
With phase two of the apartment community nearing completion, a pet-free building could be in the works, York-Keegan said. Of the complex’s seven buildings, one would be for tenants with pet allergies or for persons who wish to not be around pets. But York-Keegan said pets are popular in the community with about 85 percent of their residents owning either a cat or a dog.
Another area of innovation that Blackhawk Apartment Homes excels in comes in the form of deliveries. The complex has a program called Parcel Pending. This allows residents to have their online purchases delivered to a locker area that is accessible by code at any time. After a package is delivered, the resident receives a unique code by phone or email to unlock a specific locker and retrieve their package.
“It’s been a really popular thing because of the convenience for the residents,” York-Keegan said. “They get their packages when they need them; and the items are not be sitting out there for someone to just grab and run.
“I definitely believe it’s been a good thing for Spring Hill and the area. I believe that Grant Merritt [the developer of the project] has given Spring Hill a nice product, a very good product.”
To learn more about the high-end, affordable apartment complex in Spring Hill, visit Blackhawk’s website at www.liveatblackhawk.com
Be Well Spa is an environmentally friendly and health conscious business that offers natural nail, face and body care treatments. The professionals at Be Well Spa use products that are free from harsh chemicals and odors. The makeup and skincare used on clients are made with organic ingredients. While skin treatments use the results-driven, non-toxic brand ClarityRX. Customer can even purchase a treatment kit to continue at-home care as well.
Jenn Gant, Be Well Spa’s owner, recently sat down with the Paola Chamber of Commerce to discuss what makes her business so unique.
Q: How and why did you get started in the spa industry?
A: My best friend’s mother owned a salon in a small town, and I was instantly inspired!
Q: How long have you been in business?
A: I opened for business on February 4, 2020.
Q: Why did you choose Paola to have Be Well Spa in?
A: My family and I are proud to call Paola home and I love the small-town feel and the town square. I wanted to bring a resort style spa with affordable prices to Miami County. It was a perfect match!
Q: What's your most memorable moment in your business so far?
A: Unfortunately, it is being forced to shut down for COVID.
Q: What's an interesting fact most people do not know, or what is a product or service you offer that people may be surprised to learn about?
A: We perform waterless manicures and pedicures. Clients soak in a warm Keratin treatment instead of a water bath. This is environmentally friendly and is more sanitary.
Q: What advice do you have for someone starting out in business?
A: Do it because you love what you do! Never stop learning, take classes, and continue to improve yourself, your services or your business.
Customers can make an appointment by phone at 913-259-5009, or through their website at www.vagaro.com/bewellspa. Currently Be Well Spa’s hours are Tuesday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Wednesday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Be Well Spa continues to innovate and improve their business by adding new services and features, with the their latest additions including yoga classes and a complimentary wine spritzer or mimosa with spa services. Space is limited so book an appointment today