Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:


When I hear of a Kansas place that I want to visit, sometimes that place sticks in my brain like a bookmark. And I can’t get rid of the bookmark until I make the trip.

Keim Bakery in Ottawa had been on my mind for months. A friend, Diana Staresinic-Deane, who moved from Emporia to Ottawa a year ago, has often posted photos of Keim’s decorated cookies and cupcakes on Facebook. It’s hard to outdo a locally-owned bakery for treats, so I’m always eager to try a place like that.

One January day, Dave and I were driving home from Kansas City and we pulled into Ottawa to track down this bakery, since we were in the neighborhood and all.

Keim Bakery is at 304 S. Main Street, across from the gorgeous Franklin County courthouse. Unfortunately, we arrived mid-afternoon on a Saturday just after the business had closed for the day.

On March 16, I attended a presentation in LeRoy by the same Diana Staresinic-Deane mentioned above.

Her talk at the LeRoy Public Library was about the 1925 brutal killing of a young mother, Florence Knoblock, in Coffey County. After extensive research on the case, Diana wrote “Shadow on the Hill: the true story of a 1925 Kansas murder.” Her novelized version of this real-life crime, the investigation and trials, will be released this spring. (I’ll write more about her book after it’s been published.)

I decided to make it a Diana-themed day. Well, you know where this is headed. After all, I was kind of, sort of, in the Ottawa area, well – about an hour away. Because Keim’s had been pestering my mind for months now, I decided to wander my way to the bakery.

It was well worth the trip. My server, Beth Keim, was one of the owners. Sometimes you feel like you hit the jackpot when you come across people who are warm and outgoing and who are just giddy about their lives or their work. Beth Keim was one of those folks.

Beth said they opened the business about two and a half years ago. At the time, her husband had recently retired from KCP&L, and this pharmacy building had come up for sale. They renovated the place and opened a restaurant. The long countertop and round stools from the pharmacy’s soda fountain were kept along with its mirrored wall and old cash register. Booth and table seating is available on the other side of the room.

In addition to working at the bakery with her husband, Beth teaches third grade in Ottawa. Two sons are also involved, one of them in the restaurant’s daily operation.

During our conversation, Beth learned that I was from Emporia so she shared the news that her business would be providing “Wizard of Oz” decorated cookies for the EVCO trade show that was held in Emporia on March. 20. “I’m so excited and so proud. Can you tell I’m excited?” she asked.

It was pretty obvious. But, I’d say she’s likely an enthusiastic person anyway. When someone loves what they do, that joy shines through.

Because St. Patrick’s Day was the next day, decorated leprechauns and shamrock sugar cookies filled the front display case. And there were rows of chocolate cupcakes with a black dirt-like topping and each one had a green frosting sprout sticking out of the cake. It looked like a tray of tiny starter plants. I asked Beth about them. “We made those because of the home and garden show here this weekend,” she said, adding that their goodies are often inspired by local events.

A second display case was filled with fruit pies: blueberry, apple, cherry, as well as cream pies and lemon meringue. There were brownies: peanut butter and black forest. Keim’s also sells flavored coffees, smoothies, and cinnamon rolls. Oh yes, and breakfast, lunch and dinner.

My grilled bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and homemade fries were really good and I finished lunch with a leprechaun sugar cookie. If I lived in Ottawa, Keim’s would be a hangout place for me. And I’ll definitely stop by next time I’m in town.

Hours: Tues.-Fri. 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.; Monday – closed. For more information, search on Facebook for Keim Bakery, or call 785-242-6700.

Copyright 2013 ~ Cheryl Unruh


  1. I cannot wait for your column on Diana’s new book. Diana will be doing a Sunday on the Porch program at The W. A. White Red Rocks Historic Site on Sunday, June 9, at 2 p.m. Looking forward to that program too.

  2. The cupcakes with the little green sprouts are so ingenious and creative. Puts me in the springtime mood. Also in a cupcake mood.

  3. First thought you to have been at the Canadian Ottawa, thanks to Wiki I had the opportunity to read more about where the name comes from and how it arrived into Kansas.
    Keim’s, did have a look on Facebook, is a good place to have yourself spoiled.

  4. Thanks. I love reading about independent food related businesses located in small towns. It has to be a labor or love on the part of the proprietors because there’s zero shelf life to fresh-baked goods. Chuck

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