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Museum traffic a bright spot for city

3/18/2013

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

One word is all Dena Patee needed to describe the recent success of the Walter P. Chrysler Boyhood Home and Museum in Ellis.

"Consistency," said Patee, executive director of the Ellis Alliance. "We now have consistent hours. When we say we're open, we make sure someone is there."

In the past, the Chrysler Home board of directors was in charge of hiring individual directors. And last year about this time, the home where Chrysler grew up from 3 years of age was closed.

It was then Ellis Alliance and the Chrysler Home made an agreement in which the alliance would staff the home at 102 W. 10th and the museum, which is directly to the south behind the house.

"By hiring the alliance, there's somebody here all the time," Patee said. "They are our employees, so we make sure someone is here."

Through the winter months, hours at the home and museum are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. It is closed Monday. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, those hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Patee said she has noticed a lot of traffic from Interstate 70.

"When people see (their sign) on the interstate, they come into town," she said. "They said, 'We saw this (on interstate) and thought we'd just stop and take a look.' "

The museum got a boost last fall when it received several boxes of books from the gift shop at the Chrysler Home Museum in Auburn Hills, Mich. It also appeared in an "off the beaten path" article in the Good Guys Goodtimes Gazette, a magazine based in California, when one of its writers from Branson, Mo., drove through Ellis by happenstance while trying to take back roads on a return trip home from Colorado.

Patee said running the museum is no different than running a business.

"Customer service makes or breaks a business," she said, "whether it's serving burgers or telling someone's life story."

And telling someone's life story is what Patee is after.

The museum features all types of memorabilia about Chrysler, the first president of Chrysler Corp., including his personal 1924 Chrysler Model 6 car.

"It's about making sure people understand he wasn't just about cars," said Patee, who said Chrysler's curiosity about making things started as a young boy when he made his own ice skates and wanted to work for the Union Pacific Railroad.

As a way into the railroad, he started by sweeping the floors and wiping down steam engines because he liked to see how things worked.

More information can be found about the Chrysler Home and Museum by calling (785) 726-3636 or visiting its website at www.chryslerboyhoodhome.com.