What started as Dan Stockemer’s attempt to please his wife is now turning into a full-fledged event center business: Prairie Hill Vineyard at Stockemer Farm.
In 1998, Stockemer and his wife, the late Mary Stockemer, moved from California to his native Colwich. She had some pangs about leaving wine country.
“I said, ‘Honey, I promise I’ll plant a vineyard for you.’ ”
He was a few years late, but in 2002, Stockemer planted some grapes to bring a little of Sonoma County to Sedgwick County.
“That was my inspiration initially.”
Stockemer began buying acreage on the farm that his grandparents started in 1907 at 21421 W. 37th St. North in Colwich.
“It used to be the pasture I grew up getting cows out of,” Stockemer says.
When his daughter, Danielle, told him she wanted to get married there, Stockemer built a fountain, dug a small pond and began adding lots of plants. There was already a cabin that holds 50.
“People started saying, ‘Hey, can we have our weddings out there?’ ” Stockemer says. “So now we’re making it really nice.”
He’s just finishing a pavilion to serve another 50 people, and he’s also finishing a 3,500-square-foot pad for a tent to hold 300.
“The garden shed has been made into a bridal suite,” Stockemer says. “We made the most beautiful bridal suite.”
Tammy Cruse, who previously owned Marcie’s Cafe in Goddard and Red’s in Haysville, is helping Stockemer run the business.
They envision weddings, wine tastings, farm-to-table dinners, concerts and family reunions, among other things.
Events, such as a country concert on Sunday and a Father’s Day brunch with fishing, are already scheduled. There’s a grand opening planned for Sept. 9.
Stockemer doesn’t make wine, but he sells his grapes to Grace Hill Winery.
“They do a much better job making wine than I do.”
Prairie Hill guests can use their own caterer. Stockemer and Cruse are getting a liquor license to run a bar for events. Once they have it, they also plan to open on the weekends for guests to come enjoy the property.
The pastoral setting features lots of blooming plants that Mary Stockemer used to love.
“In some respects, it’s her legacy because of her heart … for beautiful things,” Dan Stockemer says.
Though he says his wife was a private person and wouldn’t necessarily be up for inviting lots of people to her backyard, she also loved romance and flowers.
“It’s a very beautiful place. It’s hard to explain. It’s very peaceful, romantic. Just lovely.”
Cruse adds, “It’s just everything Mary was.”
Stockemer can guess what his wife would say.
“I think she’d say, ‘You’re spending too much money,’ is what she’d say,” he says.
“But then she’d sit back and say, ‘Well, it looks pretty good after all.’ I think she’d love it, actually.”