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Burdick retiree recognized as leader of year

Staff writer

A retired lawyer from Burdick was honored Thursday by Kansas State University’s Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development with a 2023 Huck Boyd Leaders of the Year award.

Jennifer Kassebaum, who owns Flint Hills Books in Council Grove, was recognized for entrepreneurship and business development.

Her bookstore, set in a restored bank building, sells mostly new books and a few used books.

In 2015, Kassebaum retired early as associate general counsel at Wichita State University.

“My first few years of retirement were great,” Kassebaum said. “I enjoyed that flexibility. But I knew I needed to do something to activate my brain cells.”

She opened the bookstore in February 2021, the bicentennial year of the Santa Fe Trail.

Why a bookstore?

“I had never done retail before, but I have a great love of books,” she said.

Before opening the bookstore, she got training from the American Booksellers Association. She was not deterred when they told her a bookstore never would go over in a small town.

“My job is to convince the local community and those who are visiting the community that supporting a local business is important,” Kassebaum said.

The bookstore’s location in Council Grove brings many customers traveling to see the Santa Fe Trail and the Tallgrass Prairie Reserve.

“I have worked hard to be a destination bookstore,” Kassebaum said.

A family from Ireland visited the store Thursday.

Besides selling books and visiting with customers, Flint Hills Books has authors’ book signing events. The most recent was Oct. 18, when Nathan Hills, author of “Wellness,” had a book signing at the store.

“Part of ‘Wellness’ takes place in the Flint Hills,” Kassebaum said.

She also sponsors book signings with local authors.

The 2023 Huck Boyd Leaders of the Year winners were selected by entrepreneurship students in Kansas State University’s College of Business and by agricultural communications students in K-State’s College of Agriculture.

Officials with Kansas State University’s Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development say that innovative customer service in various fields is a hallmark of the entrepreneurs to be recognized as the 2023 Huck Boyd Leaders of the Year.

Last modified Nov. 9, 2023

 

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