Merchants group completes 1 project; two more in works

Kathryn Swan|J-C correspondent

EDITOR’s NOTE: The China Cafe is owned by Lin and Suki Chinnqui, a young couple who immigrated to Pawhuska from China three years ago. The couple purchased the China Cafe and building from Lin’s parents who were retiring after operating the business for 12 years. The couple said they chose Pawhuska as a good place to raise their 5- and 7-year old children. The Pawhuska Merchants Association has made great strides in updating downtown Pawhuska.

PMA President Mary Jane Mashunkashey said, “It was during the second meeting of the Pawhuska Merchant’s Association that someone mentioned updating the façade of the China Cafe. Bill and Connie Sweeden and son, Bill Joe, had become friends with Lin and Suki and volunteered to approach them about updating their store front. The couple was eager to freshen up the building’s façade but didn’t know where to begin.”

Lin is funding the façade renovation and updating. Volunteers, led by Bill Joe Sweeden, are helping with the labor and design. This building formerly housed Claude’s, The Prairie Flower, Dorothy’s and an antique store called The Mercantile.

PMA member Bruce Carter said, “Major renovations to the China Cafe are completed. Now, it’s mostly cosmetic.” When asked about restoring the building’s historic integrity, Cathy Ross said, “The Board for the Historic District Commission was disbanded several years ago so enforcement of the ordinances for the downtown businesses are now monitored by city officials.”

The association’s goal is to improve the facade, Carter said. Eventually, the building might be restored to be as original as possible.

The cafe is the first of three buildings to receive facelifts. The other two are Susan Lohman’s Phoenix Lounge and Jody Martin’s Hometown Appliance. The updates will be mostly cosmetic and the goal is to complete the projects by the end of the year. The merchants will provide the material and receive help from volunteers for the labor, Mashunkashey said.

Working in tandem with the city of Pawhuska, the association is renovating the storm shelter and restrooms under the north stairs on Kihekah. In preparation for paint and upgrades, restroom fixtures have been removed and the area power washed.

The association’s purpose is to promote businesses and downtown Pawhuska. The association offers support, mentorship and physical help through volunteer labor, Mashunkashey said.

“I feel fortunate to be part of such a hard-working group with such positive and contagious energy,”she said.

PMA Secretary Randi Chesbro and Mary Kay Warren have worked on the creation of retail merchants association for over a year. Members Cathy Ross and Mashunkashey had visions of a retail merchants group for more than a decade when they were board members for the Chamber of Commerce, Carter said.

“The merchants association compliments the chamber’s mission of economic development and tourism. In reality, the city, chamber and retail merchants association are a team, working together for the betterment of our community. It’s the chamber’s job to get tourists to Pawhuska. Once they are here, it’s up to the retail merchants association to get the tourists through our doors. We are our own marketing tool,” Carter said.

Anyone can make a donations to the Pawhuska Merchants Association. It is open to anyone who wants to support the development of downtown Pawhuska, Mashunkashey said.

Mashunkashey said the Pawhuska Merchants Association has three primary goals.

“The first goal is to serve as advocates and network with other merchants to promote downtown Pawhuska. Along those lines, we are working on bumping up ‘First Saturday’ in Pawhuska. This month the slogan was ‘Open until 6 on the 6th’ so participating retailers all stayed open until 6 p.m. on the 6th. In addition, the merchants are brainstorming to have fun, unique promotions for our customers. Information about upcoming events will be posted on the Pawhuska Merchants Association’s website, in the Pawhuska Journal Capital and through the Chamber of Commerce.

“Second, PMA endeavors to help local merchants market themselves by working as a team. Third, the PMA believes that each member has a unique talent. Combining these talents as a team can create effective marketing strategies that will bring customers into our doors and keep them coming back. It’s a win win for everyone!”

In addition to Mashunkashey, officers for the Pawhuska Merchants Association include Vice President Marlene Mosley, Secretary/Treasurer Randi Chesbro and members-at-large James Allen and Wakon Redcorn Jr. For more information about the Pawhuska Merchants Association, contact any of the members or Maryjane at 918-804-8849. You may also visit PMA’s website