Mulready’s Pub was named the 2019 Business of the Year during Emporia Main Street’s 28th annual meeting Tuesday afternoon at The Copper Top.
Main Street Executive Director Casey Woods said Mulready’s Owner Rick Becker has accomplished a lot over the last seven years, including revitalizing a downtown building and turning it into a nationally-recognized pub which specializes in craft beers.
“Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, Rick concentrated on a niche market, made offerings not seen locally and became a sensation,” Woods said, noting the number of community events hosted by the pub year after year. “Externally, his support for the cycling community and the arts — even when his business receives no financial benefit — is laudable. Rick wanted to create a ‘cooler’ community and Mulready’s was a means to that end.”
Becker said he was thankful for the support he received over the years from Main Street, both when he was first establishing his business downtown and the continued guidance over the years.
“To this day, we still would not be open if it wasn’t for Emporia Main Street,” he said. “There were so many things we didn’t know we didn’t know. There was so much guidance and help that we got from Emporia Main Street.”
Becker said of all the awards and accolades his pub has earned since it opened in 2013, this award means the most.
“We’ve actually won a couple national awards, which is pretty cool,” he said. “I’ve been on television, but I don’t give a crap about that. This one I care about.”
Becker said he never intended to stay in Emporia long-term after moving here from Wisconsin in 1997. It was after he started becoming more active in the community that he realized he was already home.
“We look back and we realize that you can just sit and do nothing, or you get off your butt and get involved in your community,” he said. “Once we got involved in the community, we just saw how cool Emporia was and the potential there was for this town — and whether we started a business or not didn’t matter. We started to love this place.”
Main Street also recognized several other individuals and businesses that have aided in its mission of adding new businesses and construction downtown, continuing partnerships with existing businesses and the development of a number of projects unique to Emporia. None of this could have been accomplished, Woods said, without a “community of doers” who make things happen.
One of those doers is Brenda Lopez, who was named Main Street’s Advocate of the Year. Lopez runs the Mis Antojitos food truck, which is often seen at downtown events.
“Brenda and her family run one of the most popular food trucks in the region, and she is an undergraduate student at Emporia State University seeking a degree in business administration,” Jessica Buchholz, community development coordinator for Main Street, said. “She volunteers with local kids, she helps introduce new and prospective students to Emporia State and she actively adds elements to a majority of the major events in town, so we all know everyone’s standing in line by the ‘little green food truck.’”
On top of that, Buchholz said Lopez’s positive energy and attitude has helped her become a fixture within the Emporia community.
Lopez said she was “grateful” for her involvement with the organization, and said it helped her cope with the death of her husband.
“I’m really grateful because, had I not gotten involved with Emporia Main Street, I’m not sure how I would have recovered,” she said. “I lost my husband over two years ago and honestly, I didn’t think I would ever get out of bed again. Just getting involved here at Emporia Main Street gives you energy to keep going.”
Amy Bolen was named Volunteer of the Year for her commitment to making downtown Emporia a better place.
“I started volunteering in 2018 not really knowing what I was getting myself involved in, but I knew I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and get more involved in my community,” she said. “It’s been a very rewarding experience to have, to see the direct impact that Main Street has on the community.”
Bolen, who is a human resources manager with BLI Rentals, encouraged other people to dedicate time to volunteering.
“Find out opportunities to help volunteer with Main Street and get your employees involved as well,” she said. “It really does take an army of volunteers to make these events successful.”
BG Consultants received the J. Warren Brinkman award for its continued work with the City of Emporia and Lyon County in revitalization projects. The firm has worked on a number of projects that have helped maintain the historical integrity of the downtown area and improved infrastructure.
The Steve Hanschu Excellence in Design Award was given to the Main Street Design Committee for its work in developing ideas that improve the downtown area.
Woods also recognized the service of outgoing board member Kristi Mohn, who he said had many ideas that had large community impacts over the years. That included keeping Flint Hills Music alive after the previous owners had decided to retire, developing Live in the Lot, helping grow the Dirty Kanza and more.
“Thank you, Kristi, for your years of volunteer effort, but note that this community will expect more from those who can do more,” Woods said.
Mohn said it is important to get involved in the community, especially if that community is willing to listen to your ideas.
“In a town like Emporia, you can actually have a significant impact,” she said. “And inside of that, finding an organization that’s going to listen to your crazy ideas and back you up, you couldn’t find a better one than Emporia Main Street.”
For more information about Emporia Main Street visit www.emporiamainstreet.com.