by Don Steele
As small towns across the midwest struggle to survive, citizens often pull together to bring a needed business to town. Whether it’s a grocery store, restaurant, or convenience store, some forms of retail remain essential to small town life.
In Jetmore, a small band of investors recognized the need for a motel and took action. They developed a plan, purchased a property, hired an architect, and started an adventure that culminated in the opening of the Pawnee Valley Lodge in October of 2008.
Located at the junction of highways 283 and 156, the site has long been home to a drive-in known for years as the “Dairy Bar,” now expanded to include seating. Also on the site for years was a motel in bad shape and often sitting abandoned.
In the fall of 2006, Bill Goebel, who happens to be Jetmore’s mayor, along with his brother, Lynn, and Lynn’s wife, and their friends Scot and Susan McKibbin purchased the property. Working with Don Pearce, Dodge City architect, they developed plans for a lodge with 12 ground floor rooms and a lower level “bunk house” with five bunk beds.
Critical to the plan was a local tax abatement, which commissioners approved on a ten-year basis. According to Goebel, “if there had been no abatement, there would have been no project. We just couldn’t commit to that big of an investment based only on the fact that we needed a motel in town.”
Construction began in June 0f 2008 and the all-non-smoking, pet-friendly facility opened four months later. Along the way, the owners were able to include several elements that make the lodge a little greener, such as styrofoam walls filled with concrete for insulation, and heat in the floors.
Since its opening the lodge has played host to family gatherings, weddings, funerals, hunters and business travelers. Relying primarily on word of mouth, business has been encouraging and the lodge now employees twelve.
Angie Barnes holds down the fort from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. She has lived in Jetmore about 20 years and she helped put the final touches on the lodge during the last two months of construction. Her daily routine includes taking care of e-mails, preparing breakfast for overnight guests, cleaning the rooms, doing laundry, ordering supplies, and running errands to the bank and store. Every afternoon at 4:00 p.m., the owners man the front desk on a rotating schedule. Extra local help is available for particularly busy times and on the weekends.
The lodge offers a number of special services. To cater to the many hunters and fishermen who come to southwest Kansas for sport, there’s a cleaning station on the premises and guided weekend pheasant hunts are available. Ron Hunt (620-357-6470) escorts hunters to excellent private hunting land around Jetmore for the best hunting experiences.
The owners of Pawnee Valley Lodge are hoping that Jetmore’s new golf course, HorseThief Reservoir, the Jetmore MotorPlex, and even the Dodge City casino, will bring more guests to town. For more information, or to make reservations, visit the lodge at their web site (pawneevalleylodge.com) or call them at 620-357-6330.