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Community Feature Vintage Treasures Await at The West Riley

Interview with The West Riley owners Rose Ann and Kendra Riley

A mother-daughter pair, Rose Ann and Kendra Riley, are the proprietors of a new and unique store in Dexter, Kan., The West Riley LLC. Rose Ann has been sewing since she was 4 years old, and she uses her giftedness, along with 30 years of upholstery experience, to offer handmade pillows and furniture reupholstery. Her daughter, Kendra, utilizes her special skills to manage the marketing side of their business. They both love quality furniture, and together they curate a collection of vintage furniture, one-of-a-kind home décor items, and other treasures at their store. It’s not everywhere that one can purchase a chair with “great bones” and also arrange for its reupholstering on the spot.

You can find The West Riley at 101 N. Main in downtown Dexter, nestled in the beautiful Grouse Valley of southeastern Kansas. They are open just the second Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but for the month of December, the doors are open the first three Saturdays.

The West Riley has been operating for just six months now – following their “grand opening” on Saturday, July 13, 2019, during the annual Dexter BBQ community festival. Their building has a colorful history – built in 1875, housing a gas station, tire repair, and perhaps other Dexter lore, long forgotten. The Rileys removed the old plaster from the interior walls, revealing and refinishing the original brick, and have utilized tin ceiling tiles from a neighboring hardware store for the stunning backdrop behind the checkout counter. You can snag up some of the ceiling tiles too! There are extras for sale in the store.

Part of getting the building ready for business was setting up an Internet connection. Enter SKT. Kendra says, “SKT’s responsiveness was great. Just to get Internet into the building – that was going to be a huge challenge for us. If we didn’t have Internet, we wouldn’t have been able to operate at a professional level. Being able to take credit cards was a huge boost to us and it has worked seamlessly … we haven’t had any issues with it.” She expands, “I had no idea what we would need for speed, so when I talked to SKT Customer Service, the advice I was given was obviously just spot-on.” She laughs, “We had grandkids watching videos in the back and I was nervous, but the credit card machine (the Square) ran just perfectly – so great customer service, great responsiveness … we couldn’t be happier!”

You never know what you’ll discover at The West Riley. During demolition of the original, nearby “Henry House” in Dexter, the local high school shop kids pulled out a cast-iron, claw-foot bathtub and hauled it down to The West Riley space while it was still a “blank canvas” of a building. The bathtub was so heavy, the Rileys had to work around it for months, even moving scaffolding around it, and using it for paint and broom storage in the middle of the floor. Eventually, a lady in town, who is known for her cleaning abilities, returned the bathtub to its original, gleaming-white luster. Kendra says, “Yes, it’s definitely for sale, but they had better bring a trailer!”

Besides antique tin ceiling tiles, the bathtub, and vintage furniture, customers can be guaranteed a unique supply of inventory at The West Riley. After a recent visit, we came across a World War II German helmet, a cribbage game set, a vintage metal fan, ornate mirrors, weathervanes, and holiday-themed pillows handmade by Rose Ann herself.

Kendra says, “You can go to a lot of estate sales and farm sales, but we have a connection in southern California (a local, ranch-kid-turned-designer) who curates items for us there. My Mom once hauled a load from here for him to use in his designs out there; but we go about every six months or so and bring a load back from southern California – not really knowing for sure what treasures the load may contain until we unload them.”

One may wonder how The West Riley LLC got its name. Kendra left Dexter when she graduated from high school, moving back last summer, some 20 years later. Laughing, she says, “As I sit here in my childhood bedroom, I look to the west of this house and I can see my grandparents’ house. They moved to this community in the 30s and we always joked that my dad made it a mile east across the pasture. So, to me the ‘West’ is actually kind of a nod to my grandparents and to moving to a new community.” And, more seriously, she shares, “The store’s name is a nod to the original Rileys, who served as strong role models, and to the values that they gave to this family.”

Summing it all up, Kendra reflects upon moving back home, “It’s been a huge change for me, but the town has been so welcoming. You never know what you’re going to walk into – but Dexter as a community has absolutely supported me, and even more, definitely supported this store – even though they had no idea what it was going to be or what we were going to do yet. You just can’t find that in a larger community, and we’re so grateful for that.”

Kendra was asked almost immediately upon her return to join the Dexter Community Improvement Foundation Board. She knows that great things can happen and that even a little bit of new life breathed into something is always good. Driving it all home, she states, “I am really interested in some economic development for the town of Dexter. We, as a business, want to help revitalize downtown. It’s not about us anymore, you know, it’s about building the future of Dexter. We are really interested in that. If we do well, fantastic. If we can do some cool things for the town and give some neat opportunities – even for the kids who are going through school – by developing future talent, that will be so rewarding to us!”