Kansas State University
“I can’t live without books,” Thomas Jefferson said.
Stephen King describes books as “unique portable magic” and “perfect entertainment: no ads, no batteries, and hours of fun for every dollar.”
Author Jhumpa Lahiri wrote: “That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”
A new independent bookstore in rural Kansas communities is now discovering and sharing the benefits of books. Jennifer Casebaum is the owner of the Flint Hills Bookstore in Council Grove.
Kassebaum went to the University of Kansas and earned a law degree at KU Law School, where she met and married Bill Kassebaum. They have now performed calf surgery on a ranch near the rural community of Burdick, a population of 62. Now, that’s the countryside.
Kassebaum practiced law, serving as assistant general counsel at K-State and later as assistant general counsel at Wichita State University before retiring early. As she pondered what she would like to be involved in next, one topic kept surfacing: books.
“I’ve always loved books,” Casebaum said. She thought about opening an independent bookstore. After researching the idea, including talking to several independent booksellers, Kassebaum rented a space in a beautiful former bank building in the nearby town of Council Grove.
Other bookstore owners encouraged her to attend the American Booksellers Association training, which she did. In one of the training sessions, the instructor stated that a successful bookstore should be at least 1,200 square feet and located in a town of at least 10,000 people.
oh oh. Kassebaum’s store is not up to any standard.
After much deliberation, she decided to go ahead and open her store in downtown Council Grove. The store will open in April 2021.
The bookstore’s website says: “Flint Hills Books is a general interest bookstore nestled in the majestic splendor of Flint Hills. The store is where “the love of majestic Flint Hills meets the passion for books.” ”
Flint Hills Books offers a selection of books, puzzles, and other activities and gifts. Kassebaum has a simple but high standard for book selection: “I include the books I’ve read, the books I want to read, and the books I think a good bookstore should have.”
There are bestsellers, new books, fiction, non-fiction, teen books, and more. Her store offers book signings and a children’s section as well as cards, puzzles and gifts. The bookstore website has an audiobook and online shopping section.
Julie Hower, president of Farmers & Drovers Bank in Council Grove, points to a resurgence of women-owned businesses in the neighborhood’s downtown core.
For example, an independent café called Watts Coffee is across the street from the Kassebaum Bookstore, and a new brewery called Riverbank Brewing Company is just across the street. There are a few more.
These independent businesses have found ways to collaborate. Kassebaum has partnered with Watts Coffee to produce co-branded espresso-flavored gourmet chocolate bars. The chocolate bar’s label, produced by the Sweet Granada Chocolate Company in Emporia, bears the Watts Coffee and Flint Hills Books logos and reads: “Because there’s nothing better than a good book and a good cup of coffee. .”
Kassebaum also runs a monthly event called Books & Brews in partnership with Riverbank Brewing. This includes an evening networking event at the brewery, where Kassebaum talks about upcoming books. “I do it locally as much as possible,” she said.
“Cami San Romani, owner of Cami’s Cakes and The Wooden Spoon, is an amazing baker whose clever cookies make bookstore events so special,” Kassebaum said. “Lindsey Patnode, owner of Lindsey Flowers by Lindsey, helped me arrange elegant flower arrangements for special events.”
For more information, visit www.flinthillsbooks.com.
We commend Jennifer Kassebaum for her love of books and share it with this rural community. As Garrison Keillor said, “A book is a gift you can open again and again.”
there are more. Remember the revival of women-owned businesses in Council Grove? We’ll learn more about that next week.
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Ron Wilson is director of the Hackboyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
For more information on the Hackboyd Institute, those interested can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.