Dear Chamber Supporters:


With only a month to go until election day, campaigning is hitting its stride and is in full swing with television ads, signs, visits by candidates to Ottawa and/or door-to-door knocks. Early voting begins October 24…I always vote early because it allows me to shut all the campaigning noise down in my head. Cherry and I are members at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood…they have committed to campaigning for a bible verse for every major election this decade. In the 2020 election, the verse was Mark 12:31 – Love your Neighbor. This year the campaign is called the “BE Campaign” and will focus on Micah 6:8 which paraphrased says, “do justice, be kind, and walk humbly.” Yard signs and t-shirts have been created which say “BE Just, Kind, Humble”…even a media ad which you will see on television and social media…you can see it here or on YouTube. All this with the idea of trying to lower the temperature between factions just a little…it’s a novel approach and a worthy cause. Anything to bring more civility to the process is meritorious. 


It has been another busy week here in town with a ribbon cutting, groundbreaking and Ladies’ Night Out added into all the regular activities…let’s get to the details!


Zelda’s Ribbon Cutting:


We cut the ribbon on the long-awaited new coffee and custard store, Zelda’s on 405 N. Main Street this week…and there was a big crowd on hand (pictures here). Store owners, Katrina and Tom Gavala, live just south of Ottawa on Eisenhower Road but previously had their coffee and custard store in Lawrence…not only disliking the commute, but additionally the clientele had more of a big town demeanor – they wanted more of the attitudes and dispositions you find in smaller, more rural towns. It makes all sense to create what they had there, here in their home community. The results are amazing! You can see their menu and pictures of their favorite choices here. The Gavalas have a large family (11 kids) of which some are grown, some still in school, some with kids of their own…Katrina says it makes for a lot of family gatherings with lots of cousins, grandkids, and activities. Mostly she says, they are all about family! The name Zelda, is Tom’s mother’s name who is still alive and active in her 90’s. Both Tom and Katrina identify her as the glue who keeps the family together! To boil it down in a nutshell, Katrina says, “we are family owned and operated. A little obsessed and overly caffeinated. Throw in some frozen custard and baked goods and that is who we are.” We’re glad they decided to move their business to their hometown…what a great use for a building which has sat empty for several years now! I highly recommend giving them a try…it is all very homey and very tasty!!


OakStar Bank Groundbreaking:


Also, just as anticipated, the groundbreaking for the new OakStar Bank at 226 W. 23rd Street was Wednesday this week…again another big crowd (pictures here). Local longtime bankers, Margie Hinderliter and Nanette Maxwell were identified and sought out by OakStar corporate leaders as perfect candidates to head the effort to build a new bank in Ottawa from the ground up. OakStar originally began as a hometown bank…their efforts have moved to a more regional approach, with banks in and around the Kansas City area in both Kansas and Missouri. Currently they have banks in approximately 16 communities. The regional Kansas City president, Charles Wooten, came to Ottawa for the event…he mentioned OakStar wants their banks to have a more relaxed environment which feels less like banking and more like where you come and can have a cookie, a cup of coffee, and catch up with friends. We appreciate them choosing Ottawa in which to make an investment and offer more choices to our local citizens. Once established here, they immediately joined the Chamber as Gold Sponsors. Welcome to Ottawa…we wish the new OakStar Bank all the success in the world! 


NextGen Under 30:


I mentioned a couple of weeks ago Ryland was selected in the inaugural class of Kansas NextGen Under 30…this week, I was honored to travel with him to Topeka to watch him receive his award. A more formal ceremony will be in December. The leaders and their guests were served lunch in the Capitol and a number of dignitaries also spoke, to, what appeared to me to be, a very youthful audience (pictures here). A common theme of all the speakers was to encourage the young leaders to make their entire career in Kansas…also, updates were given by the Department of Commerce regarding the many opportunities that are coming to our state in the near future…including the new Panasonic Plant in DeSoto, the National Bio and Agro-Defense (NBAF) in Manhattan, and the new Scorpio Plant, also in Manhattan and will bring an additional 500 jobs. Admittedly, the opportunities are currently abundant. For our part here in Ottawa, we are all very proud of Ryland and the work he is doing. I would say he is most definitely a next-generation leader…be sure to congratulate him!!    


Trail Grant & Environmental Award:


It was recently announced by Governor Kelly the Flint Hills Trail received a $24.8 million Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Flint Hills Trail is the longest trail in Kansas and the 8th longest trail in the United States. This grant will specifically go to invest in drainage improvements, pipes, culverts, bridges, base improvements, limestone surfacing, fences and gates, bollards, safety improvements and signage. Additionally, this will open the full length of the Flint Hills Trail’s 118 miles and 186 miles of directly connected trails in eastern Kansas. The Governor specifically mentioned Ottawa in her remarks and our public-private initiative to develop Legacy Square… specifically, she noted the potential development it brings for further economic development. You can read the full release here


Then…even more recently, the Flint Hills Trail received an Environmental Excellence Award in which the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, along with 12 other communities and organizations, were specifically mentioned as partners in this achievement. This award will officially be presented at the end of the month in Osawatomie followed by a trail ride to Ottawa which our own Jeff Carroll is helping organize. Here are pictures of the environmental certificate and the page from the pamphlet describing the Flint Hills Trail…again, Ottawa and Legacy Square are mentioned specifically!! It is awesome to get favorable recognition…what is described as “earned press”. Certainly, it seems on social media there are many in our own community who don’t recognize what we have and what’s been accomplished in Ottawa…the number of negative posts is staggering. I can’t help but feel sad and sorry for all the negative naysayers and their gloom and doom statements. Many around the state recognize Ottawa as a leader among communities and look to us to learn and understand how they can accomplish even some of what we’ve done here. Some people can only see the speck in their neighbor’s eye but can’t see the log in their own eye!


Couple of Announcements:


  •  For those who like to buzz down Cedar Street to avoid the lights and traffic on Main Street…the thoroughfare is going to be closed for a large portion of the rest of the year…press release here. The City is rebuilding and replacing storm sewer lines and establishing new curbs and gutters…the project begins next week on October 12 and extends from 13th to 15th Streets. It will take several months to complete…alternate routes will be necessary.
  • Also…anyone for England! The Chamber travel program, led by Sherri Lund, recently announced the trip for 2023 – merry old England…full brochure here. If you would like to learn more about the trip firsthand, there will be an orientation meeting next Tuesday, October 11 at 7:00 p.m. in the Neosho County auditorium. It could be the trip of a lifetime…you owe it to yourself just to come and listen. No obligation to hear and see what it’s all about.

Whew…it makes me tired thinking of all which has transpired this week. Now I’m headed to see how Ladies’ Night Out is going. It began at 1:00 today (Friday-October 7)…start at Legacy Square to register and see some of the 35 participating businesses. Then on to our downtown area for shopping and browsing. Always a fun event, and most businesses will serve refreshments…we expect up to 600 participants.


Hope to see you downtown…it will be slightly chilly but a lot of warm friends and activity!! Talk to you next week…


Onward ~ John 


Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce

[email protected]