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Ree Drummond - Pioneer Woman

National celebrity Ree Drummond is helping Pawhuska, Oklahoma, to grow – one purchase at a time at her Pioneer Woman Mercantile.
Ree Drummond - Pioneer Woman

Ree Drummond

For more information visit these links:

Pioneer Woman Mercantile

The Pioneer Woman

Tri County Technology Center

CareerTech

Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce

Show Details

Show 1718: Ree Drummond - Pioneer Woman
Air Date: April 30, 2017

 

Transcript

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I am Rob McClendon. Well, it can be a struggle for small town downtowns. Everything from increased competition from a big-box retailer a town over, to just changing shopping habits, can make it difficult for local retailers. But you sure cannot tell it these days in the small northern Oklahoma town of Pawhuska. During the Osage oil boom in the early 20th century, Pawhuska, Oklahoma, per capita was the wealthiest town in the world. In fact, it was the home of the first Rolls Royce dealership west of the Mississippi. Even a very young Clark Gable roughnecked in the oil patch nearby. But as oil booms go, there was a bust, and Pawhuska’s population began a steady decline. But today, fans of the Pioneer Woman can swell this small town of 3,500 to five times that size on any given day, thanks to a local celebrity’s return to her family’s merchant roots.

Rob McClendon: Well, the lines can get long at the Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, thanks in great part to the celebrity surrounding Ree Drummond – better known as the Pioneer Woman.

Ree Drummond: Welcome to my frontier. I started my blog in 2006. It was nothing. It was a small personal blog about daily life on the ranch. It didn’t even have any recipes.

Rob: But it did have a certain feel that attracted readers by the hundreds of thousands.

Drummond: I do not take myself too seriously. I don’t debate politics or religion or things like that, that people can get anywhere. It’s just kind of a slice of life. And I think everybody enjoys family, food, you know, humor.

Rob: That runs through every word she writes. Just look at the subheader on her website: “Plowing through life in the country, one calf nut at a time.” Something we got to experience first-hand when Ree was a couple hours late for our interview and for good reason.

Drummond: We had controlled burning on the ranch. And the fire jumped a road that it wasn’t supposed to jump, which happens a lot. We actually had some lodge tours going on out on the ranch. A bunch of Merc guests came out to check it out. So I wound up rounding them all up and having them follow me out the back door to the ranch.

Rob: So do you ever snicker when someone questions your authenticity?

Drummond: Well, just like today, I mean this is my life for the past 20 years. You know, you make plans and then, um, your husband lights a little match, and then you have to take 15 strangers out the back way of the ranch. And as I said, I’ve been doing this for the past 20 years of my life. So it is funny.

Rob: And successful. From her wildly popular blog came a cookbook, then a variety of other books and her own TV show on the Food Network, all giving a peek into her life on a working cattle ranch.

Drummond: You know, I never thought of myself as a writer when I started a blog. I really just started blogging. You just have to start writing, and just like anything, whether it’s cooking or photography or any hobby or skill, you will get better the more you do it. So blogging is great for that because it’s a daily thing. And it was for me. I was a serious seven-day-a-week blogger for probably two or three years when I first started. I guess I had a lot to say after living in the country for 10 years.

Rob: You are quite the photographer. Have you always had a good eye?

Drummond: Oh, no. No, no, no. I was terrible when I first started taking pictures. But, again, the same thing, I wanted to learn how to take pictures so I got a big girl camera, I called it, took my first few pictures, and I thought, well, they are not any good, and this is a really nice camera. So I just started taking pictures every day and before long I would get one good picture out of a hundred. Then I would get two or three good pictures. So it’s just, anything you do daily, you are going to get better.

Rob: How important is place for you, that being here in the Osage Hills. How important is that?

Drummond: Oh, gosh, well, it’s home. And you know I was born in Bartlesville. So I wasn’t born too far away. But now, you know, Pawhuska really is my home. It’s where my kids were born, and we’re dug in here, and this is where our roots are. My husband’s family has lived here for generations. So it’s very important. You know, when we were thinking about doing the Mercantile and as the idea evolved, we never once considered doing it anywhere but here. Even though it might have made a little more demographic sense to build it in a larger locale, it wouldn’t have made sense for us to do it anywhere else.

Rob: But I think probably just the past few months have shown that if you build it, they will come.

Drummond: I’m just so grateful for every person that drives here, whether they are driving from Tulsa or another state. Because they are kind of taking a chance on, you know, whether the experience is going to be worth it. And so my husband and I and the people that helped us with this, we spent the year leading up to opening making sure that every aspect of the Mercantile is worth it for anyone who wants to drive.

Rob: That includes customer service. Elizabeth Keese works in the bakery and moved here from Arkansas.

Elizabeth Keese: I really love it. I mean it’s such a fun atmosphere to work in. And it’s just a really great company to work for, honestly. I love working here.

Rob: With close to 200 employees, the Pioneer Woman Mercantile has become a major employer for this small town.

Drummond: My husband’s great-great-grandfather emigrated from Scotland. And he actually was a merchant. He wasn’t a rancher. This building itself was not his store. But this was the original Osage Mercantile in Pawhuska. So there are roots kind of on both sides, both on my husband’s family and in the town. So I’ve always loved the idea of an old general store. I don’t know where or how many times I’ve seen pictures of, you know, the cabinets and the men standing around in their uniforms waiting on people, “Little House on the Prairie,” the Olson Mercantile. I just had a clear vision that I wanted this store to harken back to another time and place.

Rob: But turning a vision into reality is a job unto itself and something Ree Drummond is quick to point out she did not do alone.

Drummond: I shudder to imagine where we would be if CareerTech had not gotten involved in the days and weeks leading up to the Merc opening. They were unbelievably instrumental. I mean I could go on and on, but they are basically our heroes. We have this warehouse full of product for the store, and before we brought it over to the store, of course, everything had to be tagged and priced. And so we spent days, I think at least a couple of weeks, meticulously tagging product. Everything was 70 to 80 percent done, and then we found out to our horror that the system had tagged everything with exactly the same bar code and price, which we wouldn’t have known by just looking at the tag. So it was just a little bit of a hidden glitch. And we were completely panicked. We didn’t know what to do. And CareerTech literally swooped in with their Superman capes on, brought a busload of helpers, and they spent however much time they needed to retag everything. And, I mean, as I say, I shudder to imagine where we would have been on opening day if that busload hadn’t shown up and helped us.

Rob: And since that opening day, the crowds just continue to grow.

Rob: Now, if you would like to plan a visit, Thursday through Saturday are their busiest days and the Mercantile is closed on Sunday. But there is still plenty to do in the area, and the Pawhuska Chamber has it all lined out well on their website which we do have a link to under this story at okhorizon.com. Now, when we return, building upon the success of the Pioneer Woman.

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