Hatteberg's People - Jolene And Pat Girard

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

On Hatteberg's People, for those who live in small towns, the question always is keeping it alive. Take St. Joseph, Kansas, population 14 or 15 in Cloud County. Jolene and Pat Girard decided to help keep their beloved community alive by re-opening the St. Joe Store, a store that had been part of the community since 1888.

When a car comes over the hill in downtown St. Joseph, Kansas, it is almost out of town.

(Jolene Girard) "Everybody takes care of each other around here and that's just nice."

Nearby, Irrigation rigs stand in for rain clouds.

Country roads separate the soybeans from the corn.

And at figurative intersection of rural and yesterday, a little building stands tall, linking today with history.

(Jolene Girard) "It just kind of snow-balled and here we are."

The St. Joe Store has been on this corner since 1888. For years, it was empty, businesses came and went. The Girard's documented its condition through these pictures. But through the rubble of the past Jolene and her husband Pat decided to restore the old place, first as an office for him, and then the idea came make a community gathering spot.

(Pat Girard) "It's exceeded our expectations."

As Jolene cooks up old-fashioned mouth-watering chicken or a lunch that is prepared on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, there is one other thing you should know about the town.

(Pat Girard) "It is the heart and soul, as far as I'm concerned it is the jewel of St. Joe."

The church at St. Joseph stands as a historical monument to the early French population who began the town and built the church. The Catholic Diocese decided they could no longer support it, it so several couples, including Jolene and Pat stepped forward to create a foundation to keep the church open.

(Pat Girard) "It was THE reason why we started the store, no church, no store."

(Pat Girard) "Everybody would end up at the store after mass, and in the evening and Sunday morning."

(Jolene Girard) "There are days, I have to remind Pat we are having fun, but it is a lot of fun and the people are what make it fun."

(Customer) "That Pat, he's a good cook, Jolene is a 'better' cook."

"Everybody has a talent, giving abuse is his talent."

With home-cooked meals, simmering on the stove, and the Girard's daughters providing the 'wait' staff, folks do enjoy their food, chicken this day. Now the 'Store' isn't open in the evenings, but many times friends and customers ask to borrow the key so they can have a private get-together.

"They keep track of what they eat or drink, we find a pile of money on the bar the next day, they keep track of what they used so sometime we come out money ahead, so that's what is nice about it."

The Girard's aren't here to make a lot of money, this little store is simply about keeping that sense of 'community', between the church, the store and the community, history here, is still being made.

"It didn't seem complete without the store being open also."

"You just know you can depend on people here."

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