Tonganoxie: Conveniently country
Members of the Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce have a message they want to share.
The town is "conveniently country" and should be attractive to people who want to live in a small community.
"Everyone wants that small-town feel," said Pat Albert, chamber president. "You don't want to feel like you're in a big city."
No one would mistake the streets of Tonganoxie for downtown New York. But until recently, there wasn't any land available for building new homes and businesses, said Bill Altman, Community National Bank branch president who is a chamber member.
"Tonganoxie, generally, has been land-locked," Altman said.
Developers, however, recently acquired and have begun building new homes on parcels of land north, south and east of town.
Tonganoxie also is trying to avoid losing what was once the vital business center of many smaller towns.
"Other towns are letting their downtowns go," said Nancy Younger, chamber secretary.
Tonganoxie, on the other hand, is sprucing up the downtown, adding new sidewalks, brick inlays, trees and streetlights.
"I expect to see a whole lot more rooftops for residents," said Chris Donnelly, First State Bank and Trust executive vice president.
He said he expects to see some national franchises, such as restaurants and, he hopes, other types of businesses
"I can see that very easily in the next three to five years," Donnelly said.
The new building and the downtown renovations have local business leaders excited.
"That just draws people to our community," Donnelly said.
While homebuilding is carving a new skyline along the edges of Tonganoxie, commercial development is expected along US 24-40.
The downtown improvements are expected to provide an attractive home for service-oriented businesses, and retail businesses that need more space are going to locate along the highway, officials said.
"Commercial development out on the highway is inevitable," Altman said.
The Chamber of Commerce is trying to make it easier for businesses and people to learn about Tonganoxie. Albert said that the group has added an office and Web site in the past five years.
The chamber employs Kathy Caenen on a part-time basis to answer the telephone and handle questions that visitors or callers might have.
The chamber wants to be the touchpoint for anyone who needs information about Tonganoxie, Albert said.
The chamber will have a booth at the Kansas City home show to publicize the community and area builders and developers.
"We want to let the public know we're not that far out," Donnelly said.
The chamber also is helping start a local homebuilders association.
And the Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce annually sponsors activities including the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Tonganoxie Days in June and the lighting of the Mayor's Christmas Tree to foster community spirit.
Despite growth and new faces, chamber members are looking forward to maintaining the aspects of community that make Tonganoxie attractive
Even in the future, Albert expects to be able to know his neighbors, to be able to walk downtown and to say hi when he meets people on the sidewalk.
"That's what built Tonganoxie from the get-go the friendliness of the community," he said.