The Story Behind Kansas Originals Market and Post Rock Opportunities Foundation
Kansas Originals Market & Gallery
Kansas Made -- Kansas Grown
Kansas Originals Market & Gallery is located at the junction of Interstate 70 exit 206 and K-232 highways north of Wilson in central Kansas on the Post Rock Scenic Byway. This showcase for the exceptional work of Kansas artists, craftsmen and food producers is visited by thousands of people each year. Travelers from more than 100 foreign countries on six continents have become acquainted with the art, crafts, and food of Kansans. These visitors express an appreciation for the high quality and originality of the work.
Artists who work in limestone create post rock name signs, carved snowmen, post picture frames and desk sets along with small business cardholders and magnets. Kansas craftsmen produce Western coat racks decorated with genuine cowhide and cedar signs. They create intricate wheat weavings, homemade soap, and hand-stitched quilts, hand-blown glass including vases, bowls, festive orbs, and paperweights; fused glass, glass sculptures and stained glass window hangings and decorator pieces.
A large variety of exceptional wood pieces are created by men and women, many of them in their 70s and 80s, including sofa tables, a bread slicer, egg timers, and miniature desks. One 76 year-old lady creates dozens of scroll-saw items—some of them with military insignia. Intricate wooden replicas of farm machinery, toy tops and kaleidoscopes are crafted by a retired life-watch pilot. A retired symphony conductor creates unique pens, bowls, magnifying glasses, unique key chains and vases.
Very popular items are the T-shirts and sweatshirts with Kansas scenes and emblems machine-stitched by a farm family to supplement their income. Wooden benches, cupboards, Osage orange candleholders, lamps and potpourri bowls are made by juveniles from one of the state’s correctional facilities.
Artists create beautiful scenes of the Kansas countryside in oil, watercolor, and pen and ink drawings. Photographers have captured the natural beauty of Kansas in their art photographs. Other artists work with sculptures in copper, brass, and iron. There are hand-carved wooden miniatures; hand-built pottery with wheat and leaf impressions and a large selection of sunflower ceramics. Other items to be found include jewelry, hand-woven jackets, crocheted rugs, hand-embroidered and hemmed tea towels and metal items forged by a blacksmith.
Value-added food products include a variety of flavored salsas, unique relishes, barbecue sauces, and Kansas jams and jellies including sunflower and dandelion. On our shelves you find flour, muffin and dip mixes, noodles, sunflower spread butter, honey and bee pollen, elderberry juice, and some unexpected items such as turkey jerky and buffalo and llama sausage. Ready to eat flavored and candied popcorn, fudge and wheat treats are a big hit with travelers.
Kansas Originals Market & Gallery opened on August 1, 1991. In addition to the main store located at the Intersection of I-70 and K232 north of Wilson, the Foundation operates a store in the Travel Center on the Turnpike east of Topeka and a web catalog at www.kansasoriginals.com.
The business is owned by the Post Rock Opportunities Foundation, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation which for more than 25 years has provided the service of promoting and marketing the work of Kansas artists, craftsmen, food producers and authors, especially those who are over 62, disabled, minority, low-income, or women who are in business for themselves.
Post Rock Opportunities Foundation
The Past – The Present – The Future
The mission of the Post Rock Opportunities Foundation, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation, is to provide market places for the work of Kansas artists, craftsmen and food producers and to promote tourism into the region. The idea for the Foundation was developed by a small group of people in north-central Kansas. By networking together, they found a way to improve the economy and make use of all the hidden talent buried in the homes and farms of the area.
Once their goals were established, they presented a proposal to the National Committee on the Self-Development of People of the Presbyterian Church. This group sent a member of their committee to the area, where he visited shops, viewed the towns, the proposed site, and the conditions. On his evaluation and recommendation, the Post Rock Opportunities Foundation received a grant. Additional money was borrowed to construct a 3,000 square foot building near Wilson at the junction of Interstate 70 and K-232 highways on the Post Rock Scenic Byway.
Kansas Originals Market opened on August 1, 1991. By the end of that year, there were five part-time employees and 174 members with merchandise in the Market. Artists, craftsmen, and food producers continued to join at the rate of four per week. Merchandise from members of the Foundation began to fill the building so rapidly that by mid-1992 it was obvious the facility was going to have to be enlarged.
With a Kansas Department of Commerce Tourism Attraction Development Grant and a loan from the Rural Electric Association, the building was nearly doubled in size. The new addition opened August 1, 1993 and included additional showroom space, offices, and a large storage room. Senator Bob Dole, Senator Nancy Kassebaum, Governor Joan Finney, Congressman Jerry Moran and state senators and representatives were among the first officials to visit the market.
Through the years, more than 350 members of the Foundation have received recognition through Featured Artists and Special Events held on Sunday afternoons. This series, which was supported by the Kansas Arts Commission for many years, is educational and entertaining for everyone who participates, including many elderly and school children of the region.
The Post Rock Opportunities Foundation currently has four full-time and seven part-time employees operating in two locations. More than 1800 artists, craftsmen, and food producers from across Kansas have had merchandise in Kansas Originals since it opened. By providing the opportunity and resources to have established specialty stores sell their merchandise, the Foundation has enabled many farm families, elderly and retired workers, disabled, and women who are supporting themselves and their families to receive income. Approximately 250 are represented by the Foundation at any one time.
In the twenty-six years since the inception of the idea, dedicated people from twelve counties have served on the Board of Directors. Volunteers play a large role in the success of the Foundation.
The Kansas Department of Commerce designated Kansas Originals as an official Tourist Information Center for the region.
The goal of the Post Rock Opportunities Foundation is to continue to work for its members by increasing the volume of traffic into Kansas Originals Market & Gallery locations and increasing sales through other avenues. The mission of the Foundation is a worthy one that has made a difference in the lives of its members and employees.
Credits & Awards
- Featured on PBS Kansas Sunflower Journeys 2015 and 2016
- Featured in Kansas Country Living Magazine 2006
- Received Recognition from The Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development as described on the Kansas Profile Radio Program 2002
- CEO received the SBA Kansas Plains Spirit Award for year 2000
- The Kansas Department of Commerce Land of Kansas Company of the Year 1999
- Received Penner Foundation Excellence in Retailing Award
- Featured on KSN Television's Main Street Kansas
- Featured in Midwest Living Magazine
- Featured in Kansas! Magazine
- Featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles