Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Pam Budenbender – Onaga Country Market
Released: July 13, 2016
By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
“Well, if I had a grocery store, here’s what I would do…” That statement on the part of one Kansas woman may have been prophecy, as she has become the owner of an innovative grocery store serving rural Kansas.
Last week we met Paul Budenbender who operates a floor coating business while living in rural Kansas. His wife Pam has strong opinions about grocery stores, and she recently had the opportunity to put those opinions to work.
“I was a military brat, from everywhere and nowhere,” Pam said with a smile. Along with other duty stations, her dad served at Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth near Kansas City. While working on a construction job in Kansas City, Pam met Paul Budenbender and they ultimately were married. Paul’s family came from a farm in northern Pottawatomie County. Pam and Paul would frequently come to the farm on the weekends. The nearest store was in Onaga, but it was small and limited.
“If I had a grocery store, this is what I would do,” Pam would occasionally say to her husband. Then in 2010, the old grocery store burned down and the owners left the business.
Pam realized that Onaga needed a store, and she had an opportunity to use her ideas. She and Paul worked with the city of Onaga, carefully considered many floor plans and designs, and ultimately built a new building and opened the store with the support of the city. On Dec. 1, 2011, the Onaga Country Market opened for business.
“I love the store,” Pam said. The new, energy-efficient building has colorful, accessible displays. As one might expect when considering her husband’s business, the floors look terrific. “I married a floor guy,” Pam said.
Beyond the physical infrastructure, the bottom line is serving customers. “It’s all about customer service,” Pam said. “Our staff is courteous and friendly, and we provide old-fashioned service with a smile.”
For example, the Onaga Country Market staff carries out the customer’s groceries. “I go to big box stores in Kansas City where I see senior citizens and moms with kids, struggling to get their groceries in the car,” Pam said. In Onaga, store staff will carry out the groceries for you.
High quality meat and produce are also priorities for Pam. “Charlie is my meat cutter,” she said. “All our meat is cut and packed fresh. And every little kid who comes to the meat counter gets a balloon.”
Onaga Country Market has a deli and sandwich shop, where the staff custom makes sandwiches. The store also offers $6 grab-and-go meals. On Grill Days, the store offers a $5 lunch special. Pam also has a smoker in which she makes hot ribs, which are then placed in the warmer with the rotisserie chicken.
“We offer delivery to senior citizens,” Pam said. The store does video rental, postage stamps, floral arrangements, and more. Promotions include free milk or a free turkey after a certain number of purchases.
“My passion is produce,” Pam said. “When I pack the produce counter full of fresh fruits and vegetables, I get more sales.”
K-State’s Rural Grocery Initiative, led by the K-State Center for Engagement and Community Development, recently featured Onaga Country Market at the fifth annual National Rural Grocery Summit. The Onaga store and K-State Research and Extension – Pottawatomie County participated in a recent federal grant project to educate consumers on the benefits of healthy nutritious eating, including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet.
Speaking at the rural grocery summit, Pam Budenbender shared ideas and advice with other rural grocers. Her bottom line: “Be a good neighbor,” she said. That’s especially important in a rural community like Onaga, population 697 people. Now, that’s rural.
“If I had a grocery store, here’s what I would do…” said Pam Budenbender to her husband Paul. In 2011, those words came true. We salute Pam and Paul Budenbender and all those involved with the Onaga Country Market for making a difference with hard work and customer service, making this dream a reality.
The mission of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is to enhance rural development by helping rural people help themselves. The Kansas Profile radio series and columns are produced with assistance from the K-State Research and Extension News Media Services Unit. A photo of Ron Wilson is available. Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are also available. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development.
K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.