Member Spotlight – Sunflower Mercantile
Multi Community Diversified Services (MCDS) has been providing help to individuals with intellectual or development disabilities beginning in 1974. Doug Wisby, President/CEO of MCDS said, “The focus of our agency has always been the employment of people with disabilities. As you can imagine how hard it is for us to get a job, imagine the fact that you’ve got an intellectual or developmental disability. So, one of the focuses of our agency and our Board of Directors has always been employment.” And that is how Sunflower Mercantile got its start.
A lot of the concept for the store Wisby attributes to Kathy Regehr, now the Human Resources Coordinator at MCDS. Wisby said that Kathy worked hard from the very beginning to make Sunflower Mercantile a reality. He compared Sunflower Mercantile to the old-time general store you’d find in smaller towns, where one store would have just a little bit of everything. The hope at Sunflower Mercantile is to fill the store mainly with things that the MCDS clients make.
Marissa Edenstrom, the Store Manager for Sunflower Mercantile, shared a little about the kinds of things the store carries. and mentioned that candles, lotions, and soaps they have are handmade. The MCDS clients are very “hands on” when it comes to Sunflower Mercantile. Edenstrom said, “They melt everything down. They mix all the scents … anything that they add to it. Then they pour, label, and price.” The clients label and price out all the other inventory as well, and as a result are gaining inventory management skills. In the production room area behind the retail area, the MCDS clients weigh and package, among other things, dip mixes, soup mixes and popcorn.
Wisby reminded the group of the mission of Sunflower Mercantile. “The concept is that we want to make, or process, as many of the products that we sell in here as possible, because the whole goal of this store is to provide employment for people with disabilities.” The idea is to pay the MCDS clients to not only make the product back in the production area, but to also pay them to sell that same product in the front of the store. As a result, you’ll not only see clients busy at work in the production area making, processing, and preparing product, but they’ll also be in the store front selling and servicing customers. “You’ll see our clients in the back. You’ll see them in the front. You’ll see them as part of our team, because that’s really who they are,” Wisby said. Another benefit that Sunflower Mercantile provides is the opportunity to introduce the community to the individuals that MCDS serves, because as Wisby said, “They are a part of the community.”
In addition to having products made by MCDS clients, Sunflower Mercantile has rounded out their store inventory with primarily local Kansas-made items. Marissa, the store manager, said that this was only the beginning in filling the shelves at Sunflower Mercantile and they’re always looking to add and grow to their inventory collection. She added that recommendations from customers on items they’d like to see added are always welcome.
Sunflower Mercantile is located at 106 N. Main. They are open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday. As you walk through the door at Sunflower Mercantile, you’ll sense that “general store” feel that Wisby mentioned, and you’ll quickly discover that they truly do have a bit of everything. You can keep up with what’s new at Sunflower Mercantile by visiting their Facebook page. To see photos from Sunflower Mercantile’s Chamber Ribbon Cutting at Chamber Connections go here.