By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — The business community is part of the backbone of any small town like Newkirk, providing jobs and bringing people into the community from out of town. Many people don’t know what truly goes on behind the scenes however, only experiencing that business from the front room. Members of the Leadership Newkirk Class of 2022 got up close and personal with those businesses during their recent meeting, Dec. 14, and learned not only how different businesses function outside of the community’s eyes, but also how they impact everyone’s lives in their own way.
Facilitators saw it as a successful event, helping participants learn how the business world operates, even if they already work for a business themselves.
“I think this is important because a lot of times, you don’t know about the business, and the more people know and understand them, they’ll probably keep their money in town,” said Misty Jordan, who facilitated the program with Kellie Johnson, with assistance from Everett Brazil, III. Jordan also is the manager of Newkirk Dental Center, and provided class members a behind-the-scenes look at how the Center operates beyond simple dental work.
The class met at 9 a.m. at Newkirk Main Street (NMS), 116 N. Main, before commencing a tour of businesses. Those included not only NMS, but also Albright Abstract, Equity Bank, Security Abstract, Opal Nutrition, Community National Bank, Chamber of Commerce, Apple Market, Newkirk Dental Center, Imperial Moulding, C. Johnstone, LLC., Grit and Grace Outdoors, Stagecoach Events Center, Two Rivers Co-op and 56 Feed Co. The students sat down to a lunch of sandwiches and hamburger soup at NMS following a presentation from the Chamber, before recommencing at Apple Market.
The Class of 2022 included many community representatives, ranging from business managers to education and other backgrounds. All had something to learn about Newkirk’s business community.
Scott Kempenich is the superintendent of Newkirk Public Schools. In that role, he serves as an administrator, not a business leader, but he has many similar duties, and so gained a lot of insight into the business community.
“I was really impressed with the many businesses we have thriving in Newkirk. We have business owners that love Newkirk and want to be a vital part of the community,” he said.
Likewise, Ryan Smykil also works in administration as Newkirk City Manager.
“I think the best part about it is that we got to visit places we normally wouldn’t visit, experience the industry, to get in to hear their stories, the amazing things they do, the amount of pride and knowledge they have in what they do,” he said, referring to industrial facilities like C. Johnstone, Imperial Moulding and Two Rivers Co-op. “It was impressive.”
The numerous businesses that agreed to be a part of the program saw a new interest in their facility from the class members during the event.
Curtis Grace is co-owner of Grit and Grace Outdoors, with son Jason. The business is primarily a bait and tackle shop, but also offers hunting and other outdoor types of products. He noticed a lot of excitement in the participants as he explained what they offer, and why that’s important for outdoorsmen.
“This is important for the little businesses in our small town, to be available, and how it reflects on the good of the town,” he said
Kaycee Brandon opened 56 Feed Co. last summer. Taking over the reins of NAPA Auto Parts from Bruce Horinek, she has kept the auto parts, but has also expanded to include feed for livestock show projects, as well as a small boutique, which she has operated for many years in north-central Oklahoma. In addition to explaining how she acquired the business, she also spoke of current offerings, as well as potential products for the facility.
Many left the business with Christmas presents in hand that they had purchased at the store.
“I was honored and appreciative that they came in,” Brandon said. “I am grateful to have something in our small community so that people don’t have to leave town.”
In addition to Jordan, several class attendees were able to show their businesses to fellow classmates.
“It was very interesting,” said CaraLee Boswell, Equity Bank. “What we do on a daily basis is so different and unique from what other people do.”
Caroline Golay is the branch manager of Community National Bank (CNB) in Newkirk, and explained how the financial industry operated outside of simple bank transactions. The facility opened in early 2020.
“It was exciting to be able to introduce CNB to other businesses and professionals in our community, and let them know we’re a full-service bank, and able to help you in any way we need to,” she said.
The group also took time to discuss their class project, and are the second Leadership Newkirk Class to offer such a function. The Class of 2020 installed handicapped swings at Lions Park. The new class also is benefiting the park, with new picnic tables for families to be able to get out and enjoy the park.
As city manager, Smykil knows well the importance of the tables.
“We’re going to look at updating picnic tables at Lions Park. There are several pavilions that haven’t had picnic tables in quite a while, so we’re going to get them installed,” he said
Participants are excited about the project, and are hopeful they can bring them to the Park.
“I am proud to have an opportunity to help revitalize Lion’s Park with new picnic tables. We have to raise the money, but we have a group that is excited about the opportunity to help the community of Newkirk,” Kempenich said. “We believe that new picnic tables will allow Lion’s Park to be a family-friendly environment that can host family gatherings and/or events.”
Viewing the park in-person helped some participants take on the project, which they did that afternoon after lunch.
“After visiting the park myself, I definitely see the need to clean up our picnic area for our families, and am excited to be able to help our community in this way,” Golay said.
The event wrapped up with Brandon and 56 Feed Co., and everyone went away with a better respect and understanding of the local business community. The real winners though were the businesses themselves, who may have gained new customers after showcasing their wares.
“Every dollar counts, especially for a new business,” Brandon said. “New businesses are hard to keep flourishing. It takes a lot of time and money to start a new business.”