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Natural Grocers has link to Wichita

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011, at 9:08 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, July 25, 2012, at 9:43 p.m.

The new Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage has a Wichita connection dating to the 1800s, but even co-president Kemper Isely wasn’t fully aware of it until the Colorado chain started preparing to open here.

The store opens the day before Thanksgiving in the former Borders Books space at 1715 N. Rock Road.

Isely’s parents, Philip and Margaret Isely, started the chain as a regional grocery in 1955. Philip Isely is a Montezuma, Kan., native. Kemper Isely knew that, but he didn’t realize his great-uncle William Henry Isely’s importance to Wichita State University.

At the April 1973 dedication of Isely Lane at WSU, then-president Clark Ahlberg praised Isely and Nathan Morrison, who was president of Fairmount Institute, which became Fairmount College – the forerunner of WSU.

“Were it not for Dean Isely and for his colleague, President Morrison, who came in the following year, we might not now be enjoying this beautiful campus with its enduring and encompassing educational advantages and facilities,” Ahlberg said, according to a transcript of his speech.

The transcript says Isely began his career at Fairmount in 1894 as a history and political science teacher. He became principal within a month.

“The story is told that immediately following his arrival in Wichita with his wife and youngster, Merrill, he heard that Fairmount Institute … was to be closed,” Ahlberg said. “With Merrill in his arms, he pleaded with the trustees to preserve Fairmount.”

Ahlberg said Isely was “the stabilizing force and the academic leader at the college.”

The transcript says Isely once wrote, “The college is not going to stop more than the moon is.”

This history is news to Kemper Isely.

“I was kind of surprised by it actually,” he says.

Isely says his father was estranged from that side of his family for a while.

“Just recently our dad started talking about that side of the family again,” he says. “Now that he’s old, he’s started thinking about them again.”

Much as Isely is surprised by his family’s Wichita roots, his father is similarly surprised Natural Grocers will be opening here.

“He thought it was really interesting that we were coming back to the state he was born in,” Isely says. “He said, ‘Wow, that’s kind of amazing, actually.’ He’s kind of astonished we’ve come full circle back.”

‘Hard Corps Partying’

Port of Wichita owner Scott Jones has always appreciated his military clientele, and now he has one more reason to thank them.

Maxim magazine has named his bar, which at 1548 S. Webb Road is not far from McConnell Air Force Base, one of the top military bars in the country.

Under the headline “Hard Corps Partying,” the magazine names a couple dozen bars popular with military personnel.

The “Pour of Duty” includes the Port because McConnell personnel “have been heading to this watering hole for 25 years to rock out to live music and kick back with cold beer.” Its pool tables, TVs and “awesome two-for-one burger special” get a mention, too.

The magazine called Jones, who has owned the bar for four years, about three times one day trying to reach him. When a bartender told him it was the magazine calling, Jones thought it was a joke.

“I was like, what the heck could that be for?” he says.

Jones, who served in the Navy from 1986 to 1991, doesn’t charge members of the military a cover for music.

“We just try to pass along some goodwill with military since we’re right in the neighborhood,” he says.

“The military gets a bad rap for being rowdy at the clubs,” Jones says. “I have absolutely no problems with my military clientele here. Matter of fact, they probably got us through the recession.”

They’re also who told Maxim about the Port.

“It was real neat that they got us recognized.”

You don’t say

“For the record, Ms. Miller does not have cooties.”

Wichita City Council member Pete Meitzner, joking about the vacant seats between himself and Janet Miller, who is acting mayor while Mayor Carl Brewer and Vice-Mayor Lavonta Williams are out of the country on an economic development trip

Got a hot tip or a quirky story? Call Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or e-mail crengers@wichitaeagle.com.

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