PAWHUSKA — Distance was no obstacle for The Pioneer Woman’s fans.
Many had traveled from as far away as Alaska, Florida, California and Missouri to experience all that The Pioneer Woman Mercantile had to offer on opening day Monday. The deli and restaurant opened at 6 a.m. to give visitors a warm welcome with coffee and breakfast. Then at 9 a.m., the doors to the general store opened for customers making their way to Pawhuska.
Between the first two sets of visitors, they traveled more than 1,000 miles combined to be there for Ree Drummond’s big day. Drummond, the face behind the Pioneer Woman brand, had been working on the project for about four years while also juggling her other endeavors, including her popular blog and working on a cookbook.
Monday morning was a big day for many of her fans because they could finally see the end product of what Drummond had chronicled on her blog over the past few months.
Floyce Wharton traveled with her husband, Gene, from Palmyra, Missouri, to arrive at 3:15 a.m. Monday. They were the first people in line, despite waiting at the wrong entrance for a short while. The couple stayed overnight in Bartlesville and left early to get to Pawhuska.
“I’ve been a fan of (Drummond) for years,” said Floyce Wharton, 73.
“She’s a fan of The Pioneer Woman, so I came out here with her,” said Gene Wharton, also 73, at her side.
At 6 a.m., they entered the deli, where they enjoyed a simple breakfast with biscuits and gravy, grits and fruit with yogurt. Floyce Wharton walked around the general store looking for Christmas presents, and Gene Wharton already had his hands full with a few cookbooks and some mixing bowls.
“We’re gonna wait and try to get some cookbooks signed,” Floyce Wharton said. “I could spend all day in here. I knew it was going to be nice, but I didn’t imagine how large it was going to be.”
“I’m just here to carry the load,” her husband joked.
Floyce Wharton is one of millions of fans who keep close watch on The Pioneer Woman’s social media pages to find out what’s happening next.
Like the Whartons, Lori An Hampton and Lisa Parker arrived about 4 a.m. to get in line. They also stayed the night in Bartlesville but made Pawhuska the first stop on a road trip starting from Glasgow, Kentucky. They traveled 710 miles to be the second set of people in line for a seat at the deli and for a chance to do some shopping in the general store. They were also excited about the chance to see Drummond in person.
“She’s just so amazing,” said Parker about The Pioneer Woman. “We’re not leaving till we see her.”
After they finished their breakfast and toured the former Osage Mercantile building, they enjoyed the views of Pawhuska’s downtown from the second story as the sun started to burn through the fog. And just as the sun started to light up Main Street, Drummond made her appearance at the Mercantile with warm greetings and high fives. She signed cookbooks, coffee mugs and other merchandise for the small group of visitors who were in the right place at the right time.
“I’m still shaking a little bit,” said 26-year-old Jessie Morris after taking photos and getting autographs. “I told my mom she would have to help me keep it together if we saw (Drummond).”
Morris and her mom traveled from Dunnigan, California, and booked rooms at the Historic Whiting Bed & Breakfast in Pawhuska for two nights. They arrived in town about 3:30 p.m. Sunday after flying into Tulsa International Airport and enjoyed the afternoon admiring Pawhuska’s brick buildings and small-town character.
“It’ll be interesting to see what kind of life this will bring to this tiny country town,” Morris said.
The line outside The Pioneer Woman Mercantile grew and shrank as visitors entered group by group for breakfast in the deli. Small plates of biscuits and gravy seemed to be the dish of choice for many diners.
Floyce and Gene Wharton scored autographs in Drummond’s first cookbook for presents this Christmas season, and Floyce Wharton got a wooden sign that read, “I LOVE YOU LIKE BISCUITS AND GRAVY,” signed by The Pioneer Woman herself.
“It’s Gene’s favorite dish,” she said. “I’m going to take a photo and send it to my friends and tell them, ‘I wish you were here.’”