Tampa’s downtown business facade at is appears now (top) and how it looked when reconstruction was under way in March 2011 (bottom). “I thought there was an opportunity that if there was a building, businesses would come—and it has happened,” says David Mueller, who has been a leading player in the renewal project.
Two years ago, a group of Tampa residents started talking about ways to save their Main Street. Those discussions led to the opening of a community grocery store, fitness center, hair salon and meeting room.
The result was a group effort, said David Mueller, who was instrumental in buying and restructuring the buildings.
He said the project would be a complete failure if it wasn’t for David and Catarina Rziha of Tampa Fitness Center, Cassandra Clemmer of Jim’s Salon and volunteers at the Trail Stop grocery store.
Mueller said one major hurdle in the plan was waiting for the hard-surfacing of the county road off Kansas Highway 15 east to Tampa.
“If it wasn’t for the road, none of this would have happened and I wouldn’t have done the building,” Mueller said.
The road was crucial, Mueller said, because delivery trucks would not have driven on a gravel road to bring products for the grocery store.
“That four-mile stretch is the annual budget for the Marion County road and bridge (department) and was a big commitment,” he said.
Once the road was in place, the next phase was buying the downtown building from a company in Chicago.
Mueller said “really good”crop yields in 2008 and 2009 put him in a financial position to help Main Street Tampa.
Other than a $25,000 private grant, Mueller said, all the money for the buildings is borrowed.
“The buildings were falling apart and nothing was left,” he said. “The roof had collapsed and the front (facade) was about to be torn down,” he said. “The company that owned the building let it deteriorate.”
Chris Costello, president of Tampa State Bank, got in touch with the Chicago company and made an offer.
“I thought there was an opportunity that if there was a building, businesses would come—and it has happened,” Mueller said.
Vince Jantz of Jantz Construction in Tampa was the general contractor for the project and Marty Dalke of Dalke Construction in Hillsboro did the demolition work, Mueller said.
“I didn’t want the wall (of the old building) falling on the fire station or the front wall falling on the street,” he said. “Marty did a fantastic job keeping the original front.”
Others involved in the project were Jost Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning in Hillsboro and Funk Electric in Goessel.
The plan was to gut the back of the building, put up a slab and place a steel building behind the facade, he said. After the building was completed, though, it sat empty for about six months while Mueller and others thought about ideas.
In addition to the new businesses, Tampa Cafe, which is operated by Amber Peterson, has been a mainstay for about three years.
“Amber throws her heart and soul into it and we have to have that cafe,” he said. “She is a big part of making all this work.”
Rebuilding Tampa’s Main Street took a lot of people, Mueller said. The demographics of the community are changing.
“We have a lot more younger families, and that again comes back to the farm economy and an influx of kids coming home in the last five to 10 years,” he said.
The combination of the older and younger generations is what will make the project work, he said.
“My generation just grew up accepting (the town’s decline) and we were the ones going to McPherson and Salina—we lost our local community,” he said. “The next generation grew up without it and they want it back.”
Tampa Fitness Center
Mueller said he never dreamed a fitness center would find a home on Main Street. But when the Rzihas approached him with the idea, he said their plan made perfect sense.
“There are older people who need a place to exercise and there are a lot of young people who at the right age to also benefit from the center, making it a perfect fit,” he said.
Catarina Rziha said she and husband David were talking one night about the advantages of having a fitness center.
“There really isn’t one near here,” she said. “The closest one is in Marion or Abilene. We thought it would actually benefit several communities around the area.”
The Rzihas moved forward on their plan to open in late July. The center is equipped with various cardio machines and weightlifting equipment and systems.
“We are now offering personal training from a (woman) in Hillsboro,” she said.
So far, not many people have been interested in classes such yoga or Pilates, but if that changes they would look into renting space.
The Rzihas’ goal is to have between 20 and 40 memberships.
“We haven’t quite met the goal, but we have only been open a couple of months,” she said.
A few members are from outside the community, but most are from the Tampa area, she said.
The center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Members use keys to come and go.
“One couple comes in at 6 a.m. and others come in at night, making it much easier and more convenient for (members) to come at their own leisure,” she said.
The Rzihas have three children: Kathrine, 2, Samuel, 4, and Isabel, 6.
“I think we are pleased with how (the center) has turned out,” she said. “People who do belong are quite satisfied.”
For more information about the center or how to join, call 785-965-7184.
When Cassandra Clemmer, 26, opened her new salon Sept. 18, it was a dream come true.
“I have always wanted to have my own place and actually wanted to turn the old gas station across the street into a salon,” she said.
The problem was that the project would have taken a lot of work and Mueller had a place ready to go.
Clemmers has wanted to cut hair since childhood.
“I actually cut a lot of Barbie doll hair, but I got in trouble for it,” she said.
She learned to cut hair professionally at Academy of Hair Design in Salina. In addition to her new salon in Tampa, she works at Sterling House of Salina.
The Tampa shop will be open from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. or later on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
“I encourage appointments, because I might be busy if someone walks in,” she said.
Clemmer said she has one wash station, one chair for cutting, styling hair and she plans to get a second dryer. In the future she wants to offer nail care and body waxing.
The salon offers chemical services, perms, highlights, colors cuts and facial waxing, Clemmer said. She also will be selling Joico products.
Clemmer lives in Salina, but she considers Tampa her home . She wants to do her part in making it more “livable” for residents.
By providing hair salon services, people won’t be forced to commute long distances.
“Gas prices are getting higher and many people have retired,” she said. “I want this to be a nice compromise for people here.”
Jim’s Salon is named in honor of her grandfather, Jim Clemmer, who served as Tampa’s mayor until his death in November 2009. Her grandmother, Mary, still lives in Tampa.
“I think my grandpa would be really happy (with the salon) and everything else being done,” she said. “He would be tickled.”
She has two boys, Christian, 6, and Connor, 4.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 785-643-9972 or stop by 317 Main St.
Mueller owns what he calls either the Board Room or Meeting Room at 317 Main St. It is complete with a kitchen area and table and chairs to facilitate discussions.
Greg Berens of Berens Woodworking Custom Cabinets and Moldings did the custom cabinet work for the room.
“Tampa State Bank, the co-op and American Legion all meet here,” he said. “I am also open to any insurance company or other business.”
The decor depicts an earlier Tampa, complete with pictures and other memorabilia.
Another business in Tampa was a shoe shop next to the American Legion, he said.
“There’s an empty space (now) with one piece of wood across and the roof is gone,” he said, “but we will see if we can’t do something with it.”
Mueller said he and others believe it’s up to the Tampa community to make the non-profit, all-volunteer grocery store work, along with the other new businesses in town.
“It’s the same with the cafe,” he said. “Yes, it’s good to have outside traffic once a month, but that won’t pay the bills. It’s the daily customer that pays the bill, and the local community has to support these businesses or they are not going to make it.
“We are not going to be able to survive as a destination spot” he added. “But we may be able to pick up a little gravy when people come here.”