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Quinter, KS : Community News

by Dawne Leiker
December 29, 2011 - Hays Daily News

QUINTER -- Gove County added an economic development tool to its toolbox this month when it joined the 43 Kansas counties participating in the state's Rural Opportunity Zones student loan reimbursement partnership.

"In a very competitive market, it keeps us neck-and-neck with our neighboring counties," said Ericka Gillespie, chairwoman of Citizens for the Economic Development of Gove County and Quinter city administrator.

Gove County commissioners approved participation in the ROZ program at their Dec. 12 meeting after extensive "homework" and researching the ROZ program with the Department of Commerce, Gillespie said.

Although many counties had signed on early in the process, which took effect July 1, Gove County commissioners wanted to be comfortable with the decision they made, Gillespie said.

"It was a lengthy process, but it was because they wanted to better understand," she said. "I'm proud to say my commissioners probably know more about ROZ than any other county, because we really had to do our homework."

In December, Chatauqua and Pawnee counties also joined the ROZ partnership, which provides up to $3,000 per year for five years for individuals who graduate from an accredited post-secondary college or technical school.

In addition, people moving from out-of-state could be eligible for 100 percent income tax reimbursement if they have lived outside Kansas for at least the past five years and have had Kansas source income of less than $10,000 per year d the past five years.

Other efforts to develop economic development strategies in Gove County were advanced when a community foundation was created in early December.

Under the umbrella of the Greater Northwest Kansas Community Foundation, the Gove County Foundation's development brings to fruition a long-term goal of the Citizens for the Economic Development of Gove County.

"I think people don't want to sit back and wait until the next census comes out," Gillespie said. "They're realizing that the time to take action is now."

Other northwest Kansas counties participating in the ROZ program, according to the Department of Commerce website, are Decatur, Graham, Logan, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Phillips, Rawlins, Rooks, Rush, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith and Trego.

December 16, 2011 - Hays Daily News
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QUINTER -- Busy days, and nights, are a way of life for Nadine Hargitt, who has worked the past 35 years at the Q Inn Restaurant just off Interstate 70 in Quinter.

She expects the next couple of days, and nights, to be some of the busiest. But rather than taking Monday off as usual, and preparing for the next week, Hargitt isn't sure what she will be doing Monday, or Tuesday, or any day thereafter.

The Q Inn Restaurant and Motel, a cornerstone in this town of about 1,000 in Gove County, is closing. Thursday was the last night for guests at the hotel, and the restaurant is closing its doors at the end of business hours Sunday.

Closing time for the restaurant is 2:30 p.m., but Hargitt knows there will be people hanging around long after Sunday's traditional buffet line is empty.

"This is a family restaurant, and there have been a lot of memories made here," said Hargitt, who has worked at the restaurant since graduating from high school in 1976.

A sign of the times?

The original owners of the business, which first was built as a gas service station in 1962, were Jimmie and Evelyn Graham, who retired and sold out in 2005.

Current owners Martin and Michelle Alletson now live in Oregon. Michelle Alletson is in Quinter this week to close the businesses but declined comment.

Evelyn Graham died last month, but Jimmie still lives in Quinter and works in the maintenance department at Gove County Medical Center, despite rapidly approaching his 80th birthday.

Graham said he isn't all that surprised with the closing of the Q Inn, that it's a sign of the times.

"It got to be too much overhead, too much expense," Graham said. "It's too bad, because the town doesn't really have a family restaurant. But those are obsolete. Now, you need fast food."

No matter what the reason is for closing, residents said they will miss the restaurant the most.

Besides serving what folks in these parts called the best roast beef and fried chicken around, the "Q" was a place to hang out and feel comfortable. One of those "I want to go where everybody knows your name" type of feelings.

"It's just part of the community," said Gene Tilton, a regular customer at the restaurant.

Tilton remembers the Grahams from his high school days when he worked for Graham.

"It's been a regular coffee shop for 40 years," Tilton said. "If I'm not loading cattle, I eat breakfast there six days a week."

I-70 led to lots of business

The Q Inn got its start with the birth of Interstate 70.

When the section of the new four-lane thoroughfare passing by Quinter was completed in 1961, Graham had the foresight to move his service station from U.S. Highway 40 that ran through town out to the interstate.

"We were the only service station on interstate from the Colorado line to just west of Ellis," Graham said of Graham's 66 Service.

The booming business inspired Graham to build a restaurant about a year later. Five years later, in 1968, the Grahams added yet a third entity to their business, the Q Inn Motel.

"We rented those rooms for several years, and we were busy," Graham said. "Then they started building more and more motels up and down the road."

Graham said the combined businesses provided "a good life for my family" and lauded the support of the region for strong patronage.

"We had regular customers from different states who regularly came through there," Graham said. "And the hotel rooms were full."

The banquet room provided space for family occasions such as reunions and weddings; it also hosted numerous community events, and even some board meetings took place there.

A family atmosphere

The Grahams raised four daughters in their living quarters on the property. Hargitt also enjoyed having her two daughters work alongside her through the years, adding her two sons also helped out when she asked.

While she started as a waitress, Hargitt did a little bit of everything, from running the cash register to cooking in the kitchen to ordering supplies.

"Jimmie always gave me a lot of responsibility, and I liked the challenge," Hargitt said. "He was like a father figure to me."

That's what made the business a success, Hargitt said, everyone pitching in and helping wherever it was needed.

"We're short-staffed, but it still all gets done," Hargitt said. "(Employees) are willing to do anything to help," as well as the customers themselves.

"We have people come in, and if they see dirty tables, they'll grab a cart and start cleaning off tables or pour coffee," Hargitt said.

It's an atmosphere Hargitt said is going to be hard to match.

"Everybody asks, 'What are you going to do?' " Hargitt said. "It's not like I can't find something to do. It's just that this is what I really love to do."

Hargitt, as well as other community members, are holding out hope maybe someone will step forward and buy the business and it might re-open.

"I just don't know what will happen," Hargitt said. "Monday will be like a regular day off. Tuesday, it will hit. Tuesday, I'll probably cry."

November 20, 2011 - Hays Daily News
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QUINTER -- Carol Kinderknecht is one of those people whose Christmas tree stays up all year long.

And it isn't because she doesn't get around to taking it down. She means to leave it up, for all who enter her home to see.

"My grandkids tell me that Christmas is over, ask why do I still have my tree up," she said.

Christmas is more than a once-a-year holiday for Kinderknecht.

So much so that after retiring from a 38-year career as an accountant for area co-op grain elevators, she and her husband, Vernon -- retired from Midwest Energy -- decided to start a Christmas store, Christmas Castles.

They built an 80-by-100-foot building on the north side of Interstate 70 off exit 107, just north of the optometry practice of their son, Dr. Travis Kinderknecht.

Coming up with a name for the new venture was easy enough.

"I like castles, and I like Christmas," Kinderknecht said.

So she set about having the builder, Charles Jamison, construct several castles of stone around the building.

Kinderknecht was set on opening by Christmas 2010.

But Jamison, known for his quality workmanship, died in his sleep in March of that year, and the Kinderknechts had to improvise. They bought the building that housed Jamison's construction business, South Ridge Builders.

That temporary location for Christmas Castles is located about a half mile south of the 107 interstate exit, a block south of Dairy Queen. The store has its own website,

The couple continues to work on the original "castle" building, with plans to have it ready by Christmas 2012.

In the meantime, Kinderknecht has transformed Jamison's former construction business into a Christmas fantasy land. It helped Jamison's business included several different rooms in the front part of the building.

"We had to really scurry to get it ready (for Christmas) last year," she said. "This time, we've had the whole year to work on it."

Since opening in September, the Kinderknechts have had visitors from many different states stop by, from Washington on the west coast to Ohio, from Iowa to Texas and several states between.

The Kinderknechts said there almost is a pattern to how people wonder around the store.

Visitors browse the front shop, oftentimes exclaiming about the creativity of a different theme in each of the various rooms.

There is a room with angels, another with large outdoor animals and one with a fireplace setting.

The biggest exclamations, the Kinderknechts agree, come when people step through the back door leading to a tree gallery and into a forest of multi-colored trees.

"We hear gasps," Kinderknecht said, "and we look at each other and say, 'They must have hit the tree gallery.' People spend a lot of time there. They don't want to leave. It's a peaceful scene."

The gallery features about 35 trees in sizes ranging from 7 to 9 feet tall and in nearly any color imaginable.

There are red trees and blue ones, and ones of aqua, pink, white and purple -- some with wreaths to match.

Up front, there is a maple leaf tree and a black one with white lights and crystal ornaments.

"A lot of people are getting away from traditional trees," Kinderknecht said, "going to colored trees with lights but not a lot of ornaments."

Potential customers browse the shelves in the front of the store that hold oodles of different ornaments, nativity sets and Advent calendars, porcelain dolls and holiday puzzles.

Throughout the shop sit larger items such as Christmas mooses and gnomes and lighted trains, life-sized bear Santas and a large lighted sleigh.

"We want to have things that you can't find in discount stores," Kinderknecht said. "We want to be a unique shop."

On the way out, almost everyone notices a drawing of an American flag titled "If My People" by artist-painter Jack Dawson, who specializes in inspirational artwork that feature hidden pictures in them.

"That has caught unbelievable attention," Kinderknecht said.

"We'll tell (visitors) about it, and they'll look at it and go look around at something else," Vernon added. "Then, they come back to look again."

Kinderknecht said she had been thinking of opening such a shop for a while, "as a dream retirement project."

However, her passion for Christmas began a long time ago.

"Mom forced us to learn what Christmas was really about, not money and gifts but about Christ being born, the simple beauty of Christmas and not so much the glitter of it," Kinderknecht said. "Over the years, she instilled in us about making Christmas a very important holiday."

Now, as an adult, Kinderknecht makes Christmas last all year long. She hopes to do the same for others.

"I can hardly wait until we get into the other building with the castles," she said. "I want to make this a tourist attraction for western Kansas."

November 6, 2011 - Hays Daily News
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QUINTER -- When folks walk down Quinter's Main Street, there seems to be no resisting the urge to pop in the front door of Deana's Deli and Bakery to see what's cooking.

Once inside the door, there's no turning back. The sights and smells of a cozy kitchen, and Deana's greeting to "make yourself at home," make resistance futile.

"Every time you see that woman (Deana), she has a smile on her face," said Ericka Gillespie, a Quinter resident. "She just fit in immediately. ... It's reflected in all of the things she has here."

Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, Deana's has room for 40 people. It's been filling up every day since opening its doors in mid-September, according to owner Deana King.

On Thursday nights, the fare is "country gourmet" served family-style by reservation only, and "it's whatever Carolyn and I decide to cook," King said.

"Last week, it was smothered steak, mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy and coleslaw. ... Just good home-cooked food. Tomorrow will be chicken teriyaki and fried rice."

The fresh breads, cinnamon rolls and noodles are prepared daily by Carolyn Emig, who has owned a local bakery for 17 years.

Other employees include Karen Roesch, former owner of the Quinter Dairy Queen, and Betsy Wolf.

With a deep sense of faith, Emig and Roesch said they are sure God has had his hand in the development of the deli.

"It's a God place," Roesch said. "And we are designed to serve the Lord and be of service to the community."

"And make it a homey place for people," Emig added.

King's hospitality is just as inviting as the smell of fresh cinnamon rolls. A retired school teacher from Florida, King moved to Quinter last year after meeting Kirk Zerr, a local farmer.

Following her decision in August to open a deli, King purchased the former Quinter Appliance building, a historic building owned by Roland and Opal Boone. Renovation of the deli took a little more than two months.

Tables throughout the dining area express country themes: sunflowers, roosters, John Deere, cowboy, cafe and country church.

"The whole concept I want to do is to make you feel like you are coming into my house to eat," she said.

King can't seem to help but bring a bit of the South with her, serving grits and ham and biscuits. She said her grits have been gaining popularity.

"I tell the ones that like it, call me ahead of time because it takes me at least 10 minutes to cook the grits because they aren't instant. ... You're going to want it with the cheese and whipping cream."

She said she has enjoyed the support of the Quinter community. In a town of approximately 800 residents, her open house attracted more than 250 people.

"I think that speaks volumes of the community," she said. "The whole community just came out."

Future plans for the deli include renovating upstairs rooms to create a bed and breakfast, catering to hunters, and creating an elegant but "woodsy-looking" dining area for banquets.

Stopping by the deli for a moment, Roland and Opal Boone took the time to visit with King and the staff. They said they haven't missed a Thursday evening meal at the deli yet, and expressed gratitude to King for her efforts in renovating the building.

"We hadn't even advertised the building or anything, and this dear lady just showed up," Opal Boone said. "She's just wonderful."