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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural:  Jennifer Kassebaum, Flint Hills Books

Oct. 5, 2022

By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University

Jennifer Kassebaum, in front of shelves of books“I cannot live without books,” said Thomas Jefferson.

Stephen King described books as “uniquely portable magic” and “the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent.”

And author Jhumpa Lahiri wrote: “That's the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”

At right: Jennifer Kassebaum | Download this photo

The benefits of books are now being discovered and shared in a new, independent bookstore in a rural community of Kansas. Jennifer Kassebaum is the owner of Flint Hills Books in Council Grove.

Kassebaum went to the University of Kansas and earned a law degree at the KU law school, where she met and married Bill Kassebaum. They now have a cow-calf operation on a ranch near the rural community of Burdick, population 62 people. Now, that’s rural.

Kassebaum practiced law, worked as assistant general counsel at K-State and later at Wichita State before taking early retirement. As she thought about what she would like to be involved with next, one topic kept surfacing: Books.

“I always enjoyed books,” Kassebaum said. She thought about opening an independent bookstore. After researching the idea, including talking to several independent booksellers, Kassebaum leased a space in a beautiful former bank building in the nearby town of Council Grove.

Other bookstore owners encouraged her to take the American Booksellers Association training, so she did. At one of the training sessions, the instructor stated that a successful bookstore should be at least 1,200 square feet in size and be located in a town of at least 10,000 population.

Uh oh. Kassebaum’s store met neither criterion.

After a lot of thought, she decided to proceed with her store in downtown Council Grove. The grand opening of the store was in April 2021.

The bookstore’s website states: “Flint Hills Books is a general interest bookstore nestled in the breathtaking grandeur of the Flint Hills.” The store is “where a deep love for the majestic Flint Hills and a passion for books collide.”

Flint Hills Books offers a curated collection of books, puzzles, and other activities and gifts. Kassebaum has simple but high standards for selecting books: “I include books I’ve read, books I want to read, and books that I think a good bookstore should have.”

There are bestsellers, new books, fiction, non-fiction, young adult books and more. Her store offers book-signings and a children’s section as well as cards, puzzles and gifts. The bookstore website has a section for audio books and online shopping.

Julie Hower, president of the Farmers & Drovers Bank in Council Grove, pointed out that there has been a resurgence of woman-owned businesses in that community’s downtown.

For example, an independent coffee house named Watts Coffee is right down the street from Kassebaum’s bookstore, and a new brewery named Riverbank Brewing Company is on the other side of the street. There are several more.

These independent businesses have found ways to work together. Kassebaum partnered with Watts Coffee to produce a co-branded espresso-flavored gourmet chocolate bar. The label of the chocolate bar, produced by Sweet Granada Chocolate Company in Emporia, bears both the Watts Coffee and Flint Hills Books logos with the saying, “Because nothing is better than a good book and a great cup of coffee.”

Kassebaum is also partnering with Riverbank Brewing for a monthly event called Books & Brews. That includes an evening social hour at the brewery where Kassebaum speaks about upcoming book releases. “I do as much locally as I can,” she said.

“Cami San Romani, owner of Cami’s Cakes and The Wooden Spoon, is an amazing baker whose artful cookies make bookstore events so special,” Kassebaum said. “Lindsey Patnode, owner of Flowers by Lindsey, has helped me with elegant flower arrangements for special events.”

For more information, see www.flinthillsbooks.com.

We commend Jennifer Kassebaum for making a difference with her love of books and for sharing that with this rural community. As Garrison Keillor said, “A book is a gift you can open again and again.”

And there’s more. Remember the resurgence of woman-owned businesses in Council Grove? We’ll learn more about that next week.


Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.


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 Department of Communications News Media Services unit. A photo of Ron Wilson is available at  http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/news/sty/RonWilson.htm.  Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.

At a glance

Jennifer Kassebaum retired and decided to pursue a lifelong interest in books. In 2021, she opened an independent bookstore named Flint Hills Books in Council Grove, where she is partnering with a number of other woman-owned businesses that are revitalizing downtown.


Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development

Written by

Ron Wilson

Ron Wilson

Ron Wilson | Download this photo


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