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Rural done right: Cafe, food store keep Tampa alive

Staff writer

Little Tampa might not be a shopping mecca, but it does have items its residents need.

That’s why county commissioner David Mueller’s work for his home community, once a stop on the Santa Fe Trail, caught the eye of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University. Muller was subject of a Kansas Profile article by the center last week.

Tampa’s Santa Fe Trail Café, operated for the last six years by Pat Dalke and her daughter, Ashley Thornhill, serves lunch every day except Saturday and offers a chicken fried steak meal on Sundays.

Hours are 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. most days and 6 to 9 p.m. Friday.

Before Dalke and Thornhill opened Santa Fe Trail Café, Tampa had a café. Butch’s Café formerly operated in a different downtown building.

Owned by Mueller’s aunt and uncle, Butch and Phyllis, Butch’s Café opened in 1980. After Butch died, Phyllis wanted to retire. After her retirement, she continued to own the building until 1996. The café was operated by six other people under five other names until Mueller bought the building in 2009 to keep the café operating.

An adjoining bar with an interconnecting door, the Sale Barn, serves beer and mixed drinks. The Sale Barn is open Thursday through Saturday evenings.

“We actually team up on Friday evening,” café co-owner Thornhill said.

The café started staying open Fridays in March, and plans to continue.

“It works out well,” Thornhill said. “I think it will continue unless things drastically change.”

At one time, Santa Fe Trail served dinner every night, but that didn’t work, she said.

Thornhill said customers loved joint hours of the café and the bar.

“There are a lot of people who decide they’ll just drink water and they’ll go over there afterward,” she said. “We might add another day, but right now we’re pretty content.

“Sometimes we do steak night on Saturday. So far this year I just haven’t found the right time to do it.”

Wilson Davis operates the Sale Barn 5 p.m. to midnight Thursday and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. It’s been open about a year.

Although many customers are locals, he also gets customers from out of town.

When the doors open this week, customers will see a new bar top emblazoned with local farmers’ branding marks.

“We got some old barn wood, cleaned it up, and built it,” Wilson said. “It has a rustic look to it, but it fits.”

Because the café isn’t open Saturday, Wilson has food choices available.

Many customers on Friday night go back and forth between the bar and the café, he said.

“You can even go into the bar and Ashley will walk over and get your order and bring it to you,” he said.

Derrick Belton, who farms near Tampa, is a regular at the café.

He grows corn, wheat, and soybeans and also runs a cow/calf operation.

“It’s convenient for us, near our farm. We enjoy the food, and we like supporting local businesses,” Belton said. “Pat and Ashley are great to work with and do a great job.”

His favorite is cheeseburger and fries, but he also enjoys specials of the day, a la carte items, and being able to order salads that are not on the menu. He also enjoys tortilla wraps.

“I am there pretty much every day,” Belton said. “If they’re open and we are in the area, we’ll eat in, and if we’re busy, we can order and carry out.”

He’s lived in Tampa most of his life, and always has supported the local restaurant.

“We’re glad they’re there,” he said. “It’s really handy for us to go into town and eat quick. They do a great job.”

Tampa also has a food store, Tampa Trail Stop, that carries all the basics and will get other items a customer wants.

Dale’s Supermarket in Hillsboro gives Tampa Trail Stop a discount .

Store inventory includes staples and locally sourced products such as fresh produce, Wiebe cheese from Durham, and Krehbiel meats from McPherson.

The Trail Stop building once was the town post office but fell into disrepair under an out-of-state owner.

Shares were sold at $100 each, and fundraising was done to equip the store, which operates as a not-for-profit, volunteer-led store with limited hours. Enel Diamond Vista Wind Farm gave the store $10,000 to purchase freezers and coolers

A hair salon, fitness center, and community building also are housed in the building.

Last modified June 8, 2023

 

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