Beautiful Day at the Mercantile in Historic Pawhuska

Feature Writer

PIONEERING WOMAN: Author Chuck Cissel with Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond.

My favorite television shows are those on , Food Network, Create TV, , and Tennis Channel. My most favorite, however, is Food Network with its galaxy of star chefs and cooking shows, including the extraordinary Ree Drummond, known by television viewers as the Pioneer Woman.

The program stars Ree and often features her four children (Paige, Alex, Bryce and Todd) and of course, her husband Cowboy Ladd Drummond. On occasion she extends her gracious spirit to the cowboys on the ranch, as well as her in-laws, other family members and friends.

I took a road trip to Pawhuska recently with my good buddy, Robert Bailey, to see the newly reconstructed icon, The Mercantile General Store, in Pawhuska. When I met Ree at the Mercantile, she glowed with her wonderful spirit and that enchanting dimpled smile. I was introduced to her by my friend Robert, and when he told her I was from Tulsa, lived in New York City and was in the original cast of Broadway’s mega-hit, A Chorus Line, her eyes nearly popped out of her head. She said to me, “I love that show; I know the entire album; sing it all the time: she then proceeded to sing “I Can Do That” from the musical. We both sang a little of it and enjoyed a wonderful moment and had a great laugh.

After viewing Pioneer Woman for several years now, I have watched her kids grow up right in front of my eyes. When I met Ladd recently at the Mercantile, I asked him, “How is Toddy? (That’s what Ree and Ladd call their youngest son). His name is actually Todd. In any case, after being a part of the Pioneer Woman viewing audience for so many years, one feels a sense of inclusion. You get to know the cast of friends, family members, cowboys and of course, appreciate their various personalities.

It has been so much fun watching Todd grow up from a little tot. With his personality bubbling over, you can count on him to say, “This is the best meal I have ever had Momma” for, literally, every meal Ree cooks. I did the exact same thing growing up. Besides the crazy good recipes and hospitable Ree Drummond, one of the key reasons I enjoy Pioneer Woman so much is the family connection. It takes me back to a simpler place and time. It’s a wholesome family lifestyle program that is reminiscent of my childhood and one I relate to – my mom cooking delicious food, baking cakes/pies/bread and me coming home from school to see what Mom made each day as well as the comforting dinners on Sundays. Pioneer Woman brings a little bit of the childhood magic back for me and also reminds me of my lovely mother Corrine “smelling up the house” with her sensational cooking.

The Pioneer Woman is an uplifting half-hour series, and Ree has an easy, breezy way about her, radiating warmth, sincerity and her special brand of joy wrapped in every episode. In addition to her cooking show and the Mercantile General Store, Ree has a successful Pioneer Woman blog, authors popular cookbooks, is a photographer, has a line of culinary merchandise selling in Walmart, and, from what I hear, has other new projects in the works.

Several years ago, the Vision 2025 Project provided opportunities for entrepreneurs to cultivate new ventures, renovate warehouses and create boutiques, eateries and other establishments to boost the economic development in downtown Tulsa, while giving the public fresh and exciting places to visit there. It looks like Ladd and Ree have taken a page from the Downtown Tulsa Renovation book and are on the fast track to building a sparkling new destination for all of us in Northeast Oklahoma and certainly for Osage County.

On my recent Saturday visit, the Mercantile was filled to the brim with people of all ages, from the early morning hours into early evening. The deli was packed all day long, and the bakery upstairs was teaming with wide-eyed visitors too. If you get the chance, try one of the wedding muffins – moist and delicious. The General Store on the first floor features all kinds of tchotchkes, cookbooks, her cookware line and other special kitchen essentials, plus plenty of fun gifts for the kids.

I think Ree and Ladd have outdone themselves with the Mercantile. The renovation may have taken a few years, but the overall result is stunning. Beautifully appointed and designed, with a careful eye to detail from top to bottom, including the first-class kitchen areas, amazing floors, spotless bathrooms, cushy leather furniture. The rooms are spacious with floor to ceiling windows, and don’t forget the scrumptious food.

It was a heartwarming road trip on a beautiful, sunny morning. If you get the chance, take the trip and enjoy a fun-filled, delicious day at the Mercantile. When you visit, leave early in the morning and stay the day in this inviting atmosphere. By the way, the bakery goods, breakfast and lunch are yummy. It is Pawhuska’s new shining star attraction. Enjoy!

Updated 12-06-2016

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