Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online

Destination: Pawhuska

 Destination: Pawhuska

Destination: Pawhuska
Pioneer Woman faithful flock to ­land of florals and polka dots

Article Images
My love of all things Pioneer Woman began several years ago when I received her first cookbook. Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, was just starting to become a household name and was making a guest appearance at a local event. My then-boss helped with that function and brought back autographed cookbooks for the ladies in our office. I quickly became hooked on her mix of classy comfort foods and indulgent desserts, and it wasn’t long before several of the dishes became Ransom family staples.

As the Pioneer Woman’s popularity has grown, so has my cookbook and kitchenware collection. When I learned she was opening a storefront in Pawhuska, Okla., I told my mom and sister (fellow PW fans) that a girls trip was in order. It took six months for us to make it happen but it was absolutely worth the wait.

The Mercantile lived up to everything I had seen in pictures and on her blog. Pulling up to the building, adorned with its vintage-style sign, was thrilling for this long-time PW fan. The retail store, deli, bakery and everything about The Mercantile were a fantastic mix of old and new. The Drummonds renovated the historic property, which originally opened as The Osage Mercantile back in 1903. Their hopes were to restore it with the same premise of providing a sort of one-stop shop for visitors, as mercantile stores used to be. Guests can spend the entire day their eating, visiting and picking up a wide range of items.

The 22,000-square-foot building features a large retail space on the ground floor that carries everything from cooking utensils to clothing. Many featured items are from The Pioneer Woman’s personal brand, including her dishes and linens. Lots, however, are Ree’s go-to kitchen favorites from other lines, as seen on her cooking show.

According to retail manager Amy Fredinburg, “The store is filled with products that Ree loves and uses.” Some of the most popular items include measuring cups, plastic-wrap holders and anything with polka dots. “Ree hand selects every item in the store. Her fingerprints are on everything in the building,” Fredinburg said.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was watching their incredible bakery staff at work. The Mercantile has 20 full-time bakers who make everything from scratch. They use a ton of butter, literally. They go through more than 2,000 pounds of butter weekly to produce some of the flakiest, tastiest pastries I have ever eaten. There should be some sort of warning label at the bakery counter about the inevitable danger to your wallet and waistline. We each bought a ridiculous number of treats and still had more we wanted to try. A few must-haves include the legendary cinnamon rolls, the maple pecan scone and, my personal favorite, the blueberry streusel. 

They pair perfectly with a delicious cup of PW coffee, which is brewed in Tulsa and available only through The Mercantile. Everything was scrumptious and my only complaint is that they don’t offer a home-delivery option. (That’s probably for the best for my wallet and waistline!)

The same goes for the incredible food at the deli. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the eatery serves some of PW’s most delectable dishes, including her lasagna and the Marlboro Man Sandwich. Lunch usually draws the busiest crowd, but each meal is guaranteed not to disappoint. The Mercantile also offers a “grab-and-go” option, where visitors can get a premade meal and take it to-go or dine at a table outside. 

I highly recommend the enchiladas. And the mac’n cheese. And the lemonade. OK, I’m pretty sure everything is good. Take friends and share so you can sample as much as possible.

In renovating the property, the Drummonds made extra efforts to help maintain its historic appeal. Above the coffee bar is a “National Biscuit Company” mural ad that was part of the former general store. Large portions of the hardwood floors are also original to the building. The ornate ceiling tiles were part of the turn-of-the-century structure and carefully restored to a natural metal finish. Similar elements are woven throughout the entire site and make the experience even more memorable.

What I also love about the Mercantile is the impact its presence is clearly having on the charming community. Since opening Oct. 31, the Mercantile has welcomed more than 900,000 visitors. It has created 225 jobs and increased regional tax revenue by more than 33 percent. Main Street business is booming and as operations manager Taylor Potter joked, “Never before has downtown Pawhuska had a parking problem.” New merchants are opening and just next-door, renovations are under way on another multi-storied building. 

It’s obvious that residents there also are thrilled to have The Mercantile. Every individual we encountered was kind and welcoming. From the door greeter to the managers, they all let us know how happy they were to have us visit.

Although we didn’t get to meet The Pioneer Woman (she and her family frequently make appearances there), the trip till served to fuel my obsession. I am even more excited for her new magazine this summer, and her new cookbook, which will debut this fall. I will definitely go back to The Mercantile, but should probably make some room in my cabinets first.

– By Brittany Ransom

This article appears in the May 2017 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine.

© 2019 Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online, Inc.
P.O. Box 1341 Fort Smith, AR, 72902