If someone had asked Jenny Betschart when she graduated from high school or even college if she planned to come back to live and have a retail store in Ashland, Kansas, her answer would have likely surprised you.
“No, never,” she said.
She’s the fifth generation raising the sixth on the Giles Ranch near Ashland, Kansas. She still helps on the family ranch and with the help of two of her three sisters, they manage The Meating Place, a store front in Ashland and soon a holiday market in Dodge City’s Village Square Mall. The Meating Place features Giles Ranch Beef and curated items including chicken, pork, cheeses and other products.
Betschart and her sisters, Molly Beckford and Katie Shaw, started selling beef in 2006 when they took a trailer load of beef to Houston, Texas, where their aunt lived, to sell.
“We took six head down then, and kind of sold it off and on like that until 2012,” she said. “And that’s when we bought a walk-in freezer and started doing more of it.”
They kept selling beef to consumers directly and had some success until the Starbuck fire in 2017 put a halt to their enterprise. A large portion of the ranch and Clark County was destroyed by the wildfire, and Betschart and her sisters had to rebuild their homes lost in the fire. They also had to work on rebuilding the cowherd.
“And then when COVID hit, it really took off again and that’s when we had the chance to open up a store in Ashland in 2020,” she said.
They began regularly selling out of their beef cuts online and were shipping orders out of the office and shop at the ranch and needed some more space for shipping. Kendel Kay with the Stockgrowers State Bank in Ashland offered them a lease for a building on Main Street.
“It had plenty of space and worked perfectly for shipping,” she said. “And then we thought well if you’re going to be shipping in town we might as well see if a store would work.”
So the trio got to work gathering various items they liked and wanted to offer to their customers. Some of their items include pork and chicken from Dale Farms in Protection, cheese from Jason Wiebe Dairy in Durham, and eggs from Whirlwind Farm near Bucklin. Jellies and candies come from Nash Originals in Coldwater, and some handmade wooden items come from a man who grew up in Bucklin. They also have some food mixes that have Kansas roots.
“And then we have also started selling some things, the kind of products that we use and like and one of our biggest clients is called Essentially Salv-ee,” she said. “It is a line of home remedies and health products that a mom in the Texas Panhandle makes.
Betschart said they have a special fondness for Kansas products but also love products that tied moms and supporting them. She sees how important it is to have a presence in Ashland.
“Every business that we can have on Main Street is something that helps attract people to our hospital and our school and do things to keep those businesses open,” she said. “There are so many small towns that struggle to keep anything on Main Street, and they just look so desolate and sad, and I am so proud of Ashland for working hard to support their local businesses.”
She said Ashland boasts clothing boutiques, a T-shirt shop, two florists and four salons right now, among other businesses.
“There’s just been a lot of opportunities for families to come back and make Ashland home,” Betschart said.
Having those type of enterprises in town is important, not only in keeping business local, but attracting more to the community.
The beef of it
All of the beef sold in the Meating Place store comes from the Giles’ commercial Angus herd, with the majority of the genetics coming from nearby Gardiner Angus Ranch.
“We do a lot of genomic testing now, so that has really helped us increase our Primes and ribeyes, and rapidly increase our beef quality so that we are really providing a consistent, quality product,” she said. “Not only for this small portion that goes through our store, but for the rest that are fed and go through National Beef.”
As reported in the High Plains Journal