LEONARDVILLE, Kan. (WIBW) - People around Leonardville find the perfect 'landing' spot at Nelson's Landing.
"It's just a great gathering place," customer Deanna Hanson said while lingering over lunch with friends on a recent weekday afternoon.
Kim and Alan Nelson bought the town's historic Sike's Store and an adjacent building as a sort of empty nest project. Kim says she had no idea the reception it would get.
"The kids were starting to get out of high school and go into college and I thought, 'Oh, it would be kind of fun to have a little project.' It was supposed to be a hobby but it's grown a little bit," she said. "Small towns - some of them are fading away, and so we want to keep things going."
Nelson's Landing opened in December 2007, just before the Nelsons' middle child Jordy was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. While you'll see plenty in the restaurant to chronicle his career, Nelson's Landing celebrates the entire Riley County and K-State community.
"I think it's cool that for such a small school we have had a lot of athletes go on and be very successful," Kim said. "We have John McGraw with the Kansas City Chiefs; Amy Mortimer who ran for Riley County and then went to K-State and was an All-American and tried out for the Olympics. It's just cool to see the success and then the success that goes on beyond athletics."
Sharing their success is an integral part of the Nelsons' game plan.
Just ask Josh Wendland, whose twin sons Gage and Grayson were born at 25 weeks, five days - so tiny, his wedding ring fit on their arm.
"We're so lucky to have this business in a small town like this," Josh said.
While he and his wife juggled expenses traveling among multiple hospitals, the Nelsons made them a beneficiary of their annual benefit in 2012.
"It was hard (to accept help), but great to just let people wrap you in that much love and support," Josh said, adding the boys are doing great now.
The benefit marks its 10th year this year, always on the second weekend in June, always helping local people in need. As it's grown, the Nelsons established the Nelson Family Community Foundation five years ago, complete with a board of directors, in hopes of doing even more for their community.
"We can't take away all of their expenses or help with a cure for a lot of them, but we just hope that we can help ease the stress a little bit," Kim said. "That's just how we were raised. You get in and you help people because you know one thing - you never know when you might need some help, too."
Of course, it all comes together with good food. Kim touts the chicken fried steak as a favorite, while salads, burgers and daily specials also top the list, along with Nelson's famous pies.
The beef comes from the family farm, which oldest son Mike now works with his father, while the pies get the extra touch from Kim's mom, Betty, with an assist from Kim and daughter Kelsey, before Kelsey heads to teach and coach at the local school.
"(My mom's) going to be 86 and she's here in the morning to get us started," Kim said. "Dad (Fred) started it. He's passed away, but for 10 years, those two were here, starting the pies."
A tip from Kim and other Nelson's regulars: order your pie before you check the menu for your meal, otherwise the flavor you want might be gone!
Kim said the restaurant is fortunate to draw support from the surrounding community, and as a mid-way meeting point for the Junction City/Manhattan and Clay Center/Marysville areas.
"We just appreciate everybody's support," she said. "It makes you feel good, too, that you can put a business in town that your people can have a job."
Beyond locals, Kim said they've also enjoyed being a pit stop for Packers fans who want a taste of where Jordy grew up.
"We've had some come in all dressed up as though they're going to a game. They'll have cheeseheads and jackets. I'll have to see what happens with Raiders fans!" Kim muses.
Which leads to one more question - will Nelson's be redecorating?
"I get asked that a lot," Kim laughs. "No. We'll just be adding on. You don't erase 10 good years at Green Bay."
2018 Nelson Family Community Foundation Benefit
June 8 and 9, Nelson's Landing - Leonardville
5 pm - Kids Fun Zone hosted by Riley Co. HS
6 pm - Jordy Nelson autograph session (Donation required, 2 item limit)
10 am - Golf tournament, Leonardville Golf Club
11 am Register / Noon Depature - Drive or Ride, Nelson's Landing
4 to 6:30 pm - Silent Auction, Nelson's Landing
7 pm - Live Auction, Nelson's Landing
This year's beneficiaries:
Marteney Family, Leonardville: Brittan was born in August, three months early, to parents Justin and Lenay. She weighed 2 lbs, 3 oz. She's now home and progressing, but continues to need follow-up treatments, and has a heart defect which may require surgery down the road.
Jim Taylor, Leonardville - Jim was diagnosed last May with a rare cancer of the bile duct that had spread to other organs. Given a year to live, Jim found a treatment in Arizona that has him well enough to return home, and even return to his job at Riley Co. Public Works. However, the treatment is not covered by insurance, and he must continue to receive it.
Learn more about Nelson's Landing and the benefit at www.nelsonslandingks.com.