When TV Transformed a Town

When TV Transformed a Town
When TV Transformed a Town

Written by Jonathan Reed, Editor

July 17, 2023

Television-watching foodies know these words from the Food Network's

"Pioneer Woman":

"I'm Ree Drummond, and I live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere ... "

Since 2006, food writer, photographer, and recipe ­builder Ree Drummond has been blogging about farm life near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, and televising her recipes since 2011.

Her "middle of nowhere" show opening is arguable; Pawhuska (pop. 3,000) is smack-dab in Osage County in east-central Oklahoma between Bartlesville (headquarters of Phillips Petroleum) and Ponca City (early oil boom wealth, and also ranching). Thanks in part to "Pioneer Woman," it is about to explode commercially.

The Drummond Effect
The home of the Osage Nation, Pawhuska is the gateway to the Joseph II Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, the largest protected tallgrass prairie remnant in North all the grassland made perfect grazing land, Frederick Drummond thought, so in 1882 established a rancher-friendly mercantile business-remember that word, mercantile.

Frederick's college-educated sons and grandsons used that fertile land to create a solid cattle business. Succeeding Drummond descendants enlarged the ranches over the years to more than 200,000 acres by the 1980s, and later to 433,000 acres in this century.

Let's call this smart, successful business growth The Drummond Effect.

"The Drummond Effect is real," notes Suzanne Holland. She and her sister Cathy Jordan operate interior design studio The Oilman's Daughter and have opened two vacation rental guesthouses in town. "Without a doubt Ree draws people to this small town and it is thriving because of her. Ree is the draw, but once people get here they realize there is so much more in addition to all The Pioneer Woman brings.

With substantial assets behind them, the Drummond family hasn't shied away from local investment. Consider the businesses Ree and her husband Ladd have opened:

The Mercantile

The Drummonds converted part of the building for their offices in 2014, then renovated the entire building for a retail establishment featuring Pioneer Woman merchandise and more. It also features a restaurant, bakery, and upstairs a dramatic and welcoming coffee shop.

P-Town Pizza

Offering made-­to order pizza from an Italian wood­fired oven, they filled the "pizza gap" in town.

Charlie's Sweet Shop­

Serving 16 flavors of premium ice cream, Charlie's fulfill the needs of your sweet tooth.

The Pioneer Woman Boarding House

Adjacent to the Mercantile, the boarding house offers eight high-end suites.

With food at the heart of everything The Pioneer Woman does, room service means you might never leave during your stay.

Plus, they also bought a closed ALCO store on the west edge of town to use for their warehousing and shipping center.

Business district opportunities

Downtown Pawhuska's many 1920s era buildings speak to the oil boom at that time. The Historic Frontier Hotel, across the street from the Mercantile, is housed in a century old five-story triangular building.

Following a $3 million dollar renovation, this boutique hotel offers 20 unique rooms for tourists. What's coming? Look for an equally unique coffee shop at the pointy end of the ground floor.

Over the past few years, other retail and tourist-related businesses have come to town.

The Buckin' Flamingo store was an early opportunist, open for more than a decade. It has unique items like turquoise jewelry, yard art of various kinds, and many vintage items.

The Ben Johnson Cowboy Museum highlights the career of "The Worlds Greatest Cowboy," who is the only person to win both a World Champion Steer Roping title and an Academy Award. The Salt Creek Marketplace brings high end luggage, jewelry and decor to Pawhuska's main street area.

LOREC Ranch Home Furnishings brings wood and upholstered furniture to town, along with design services and even boutique wear, made in Oklahoma. They also have shops in Oklahoma City and Amarillo, Texas.

On the edge of town, the Osage Nation is constructing a new casino to replace an existing one built in 2003. The new Vegas-style casino will feature a larger gaming floor-250 slot machines-plus banquet rooms and a 47 room hotel located on a 63-acre campus. Look for an opening in November, 2023.

All this sounds like a thriving area developing its own tourism mojo.

Looking good, Pawhuska
Thanks to new tourist dollars, it's getting fancy.

Sisters Suzanne Suzanne Holland and Cathy Jordan saw the future coming, so they invested in the area by buying one house and renovating it into an inviting vacation rental in 2018, calling it The Oilman's Daughter.

"We decided to create 'Luxury in the Osage' and a home where we would want to stay and others might too," Cathy said.

Suzanne continues: "As our vision began to evolve and we saw success in our first home on 7th Street, we began to wonder if we could do it again. Pawhuska was continuing to grow and we decided The Oilman's Daughter could grow too."

So they bought a second century old Spanish Revival property on 12th Street in 2021 and renovated that also. The community noticed their creative and tasteful interior touches-an eclectic collection of "antique, new vintage, and one-of­-a-kind treasures," as Suzanne puts it.

Then they were approached by three sisters who bought the closed downtown Commerce Bank building and invited them to join their own soon-to-open retail shop. Thus, Oilman's Daughter Interiors was created, offering interior design services to Osage County and beyond.

Movie magic, maybe?
If television has brought good fortune, an upcoming film will bring magic, many hope. Based on a 2017 David Grann book about romance and the murders of a wealthy Pawhuska family in the early 1920s, "Killers of the Flower Moon" is a Martin Scorsese movie to be released in October, 2023.

A compelling story with a solid local angle, the adaptation stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone and Brendan Fraser. After a run in theaters, it will premiere on Apple TV+.

"Pawhuska has so much to offer. It is small town nostalgia. It is home to the Osage Nation and Native Americans, ranching, and real cowboys, and families that have built a life in this small town for generations ... with all the growth, there remains so much untapped potential for visitors to the area," Cathy Jordan says.

Learn even more

View Pawhuska during its last heyday

See all to do in Pawhuska and the Osage:

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