WaKEENEY — Reminders of August’s hail storm still can be seen around WaKeeney in boarded-up windows and temporary repair shops. But one downtown business is about to celebrate a rebirth of sorts from the destruction.
Storefront windows and decorative stained glass above the entrance of The Studio and Kansas Art Gallery were destroyed in the Aug. 10 storm, and a back room saw flood waters. But owner Lynelle Shubert has taken the opportunity to revamp her building to provide a space for celebrations from baby showers to holiday parties
There still is some work to be done before an open house to preview the new space at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Main Street building, but Shubert is excited for the change.
In fact, the storm came at a pivotal time for Shubert. In the three years since she opened The Studio in the back part of the building, the paint and craft parties for all ages has grown. But she has struggled to find a niche for the front part of the building.
The space first was an art gallery, then a place for Kansas-made products sold on consignment. Neither effort really paid the bills, however, she said.
Her husband, John, retired at the beginning of August, and they were trying to figure out what they wanted to do.
“My husband had retired, we wanted to travel, you can’t travel when you have a retail store because you’re stuck there every day,” Shubert said.
“I was at a crossroads. I was at a point where I could have closed the store and said I’m done,” she said.
Six months ago, she went to a marketing seminar and was told she should drop the retail part of the business. Talking about the studio, she brightened up, but was just the opposite in talking about the retail, she was told.
“I couldn’t bring myself to do it,” she said.
Then came the thunderstorm Aug. 10 that brought tornado warnings and hail as large as softballs across the county. The Shuberts had left that morning for a trip to visit their son in California and a new grandbaby — a trip they had to postpone several times. Family and friends notified and kept them updated on the storm and took care of boarding up the damaged windows.
When they returned from the trip, Shubert realized the storm was an opportunty.
“It was a Godthump,” she said.
The retail part of the business will be gone, except for postcards, Christmas ornaments and a few WaKeeney T-shirts she’s offered. A rummage sale Saturday will help clear out the remaining items.
It was just last week that the windows and the carpeting in the display area got replaced. John just finished putting in new flooring in the venue to replace the old industrial carpeting.
Shubert’s real estate office still will have space in the building, as well as Diane Wagner’s framing business, I Was Framed. Irene Dirks’ Rent A Stitch quilting business will continue in the basement, but each of those are mostly by appointment, so won’t interfere with using the front space for parties, Shubert said.
“I can now rent the space and I don’t have to be here. John and I can travel,” she said.
Near the front, around a fireplace, is a sitting area where a non-denominational discussion group meets, and that will continue as well, she said.
“Coffee and theology has met here every Friday morning since I opened my doors, so they will continue to meet here,” she said.
The rental space will offer a comfortable atmosphere for wedding or baby showers and other gatherings that isn’t available elsewhere in town, and allow for larger paint parties, Shubert said.
The new space is just furthering the evolution of the business that was “a God thing” from the beginning, she said. She started it as a new empty-nester and found herself called toward art.
“I discovered I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what to do with an empty nest and wanted an outlet,” she said.
“I fill some sort of a need in this community that I cannot explain myself,” she said.