The day Pioneer Woman fans have been waiting for is almost here. Ree Drummond's 'The Mercantile' store opens Monday morning.
Ree made a name for herself 11 years ago when she started ‘The Pioneer Woman’ blog. That led a cookbook, then a TV show, a cookware line at Walmart and now The Mercantile. Ree’s new shop, deli and bakery in Downtown Pawhuska.
“If someone had told me what would result from my starting a blog, I would have laughed. But that's why life is so fun, man. You just pop popcorn and watch and see what happens,” Ree said.
Ree and her husband Ladd, also known as the "Marlboro Man," bought 102-year-old Osage Mercantile building in 2012.
They've spent past fours years rehabilitating the building and letting their plans evolve into what The Mercantile is today -- a general store, deli and bakery. And a true labor of love.
When you walk into The Mercantile, or The Merc, as Drummond affectionately calls it, you’re greeted by a smiling face from Drummond's staff and country music, like Willie Nelson, playing over the speakers.
“I really want it to be a place where people feel happy and welcome,” she said.
The Mercantile is the talk of Pawhuska these days, as excitement builds ahead of Monday’s grand opening. And Drummond has done so much making sure everything is just right, she’s worked herself sick.
“We've had many late nights. Five nights ago this store was just a bunch of stacks of random products and we had no idea what we were gonna do with it, so this is how I lost my voice,” she laughed while pointing at her store.
But scratchy voice and all, Drummond and her team got it done and they left no detail unturned.
“It's very special to me,” she said. “All of the [stuffed] animals have a bandana around their neck that say Drummond Ranch because they’re all animals that are on Drummond Ranch – coyotes, armadillos, eagles, raccoons.”
The newly renovated historic building is a shoppers dream with something for everybody.
“I’m a little bit of a middle child. I don’t want people to be bored in my presence,” Drummond said. “I wanted people to walk into the store and say, ‘Oh look at that. Oh wow, look at that.’”
She’ll sell one-of-a-kind dishware, houseware, clothing, jewelry, leather bags and ‘cowboy stuff,' you name it. Drummond said she’s been buying merchandise since March. She hand-picked everything in the store.
“I had to love it. I had to want it and I basically had to be crazy about it in order for it to be in The Merc and I just basically obsessed over what I was going to put in the store,” Ree said.
One of her favorite products, she said, are the finger puppets, specifically the one made to look like Abraham Lincoln.
“The products in here, there's such a mix. There are things for kids, there are things for kids-at-heart,” she said.
She said the deli and bakery are dearest to her heart, they will serve up some of the Pioneer Woman specialties.
“Food is what I love. I’ve obsessed over the food,” Ree said. “I had a lot of fun with this.”
Drummond seems to have fun in everything she does, which is why fans from all over the country want stop in. The city predicts well over 1,500 out-of-towners will visit every day.
Kay and Jim Graham drove in from Alaska because they follow The Pioneer Woman and her family on TV and online.
“We love it,” Kay Graham said.
“It's an all-American family living off the land and making the land work. They've just done a marvelous job,” Jim Graham added.
Others have come in from California, New York, Connecticut, Florida and Indiana, just to name a few – proof The Merc is already putting Pawhuska on the map.
“It's a true blessing for our community,” city manager Mike McCartney said. “There's not enough years for me to be able to create what this one business will create for us.”
The Pioneer Woman now employs nearly 200 people between The Mercantile and her distribution warehouse in town.
The city manager said it’s hard to predict the true economic impact, but said it will be well into the millions and great enough to turn back the clock on the sleepy, little town.
“What's getting ready to happen is gonna bring us back to probably where we were in the 20s when it was really roaring,” McCartney said.
The Pioneer Woman won’t take all the credit, she said there are other business owners in town who have the same vision and see Pawhuska’s potential just like her.
“Pawhuska is a little bit of a sleepy town, but I will say, it has changed so much from 10 years ago. There are some young people that have moved here. We've got some shop owners that aren't from Pawhuska, but they saw something special in this town,” she said. “Even apart from what I'm doing, there's a little bit of momentum going on anyway, so it almost seems like the timing is almost preordained.”
But as for numbers and how many tourists she’ll bring to town, she’s not focused on that.
“I'm bad at math and I don't sit around and say 'We need this many people to do this and this.’ I've been concentrating on making the store as great as it can be and as unique as it can be,” she said. “I think if I get too mired in goals and objectives, I would stop having fun and I think the fun it what this place is all about.”
The fun she’s having is in every detail. The rustic charm reflects Drummond's Osage County roots, a part of her she loves sharing with the world.
“People who drive in, who have never been to this area say, ‘I just thought Oklahoma was flat and boring and then I drove into Osage County.’ They just can't believe the sweeping views,” she said.
But it’s the kindness of the people in town, some of the best you’ll ever find, that will keep folks coming back to Pawhuska she says.
“I may be the reason people come to visit, but I won't be the only thing they want to stay and see,” Drummond said. “I feel like people will come and then they'll come back. I want them to come visit, but I want them to come back and bring a friend.”
The Pioneer Woman said she plans to be at The Merc as much as she possibly can.
The deli is set to open Monday morning at 6 a.m. The shop on the other side will open a few hours later.