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Family business gets a facelift

A few shops down from Tallgrass Antiques, Sam and Josh Lilley own Salty Cow Mercantile, 322 Broadway Street. The business was previously known as Jim Bell & Sons, an 80-year-old business that specialized in western wear for the local cowboy and ranching community.

Sam grew up in Pennsylvania. She came to Kansas for school, and after she married Josh, they ended up in Cottonwood Falls. She said Jim Bell & Sons was up for sale, and that is why they moved to town.

The name became Salty Cow Mercantile, and an updated facade outside the store — a turquoise awning with the store’s logo on it — welcomes customers.

“Our mission is to have good quality products that are affordable,” Sam said. “It’s what people locally want to have.”

Sam aims to stock the store with things local ranchers want and need. She said her store carries rope and tack, items no other area store carries. She also stocks boots, jeans, western apparel and kids’ clothing.

“All of our tack is handmade,” Sam said. “Some of it comes from Kansas. There’s a kid in Wichita and one in Augusta who make it. It’s just nice to have handmade stuff for people who appreciate that stuff.”
Sam is trying to figure out what her best-selling items will be.

“Every season there’s always new fashions and new merchandise,” Sam said.

While Sam and Josh continue to grow their business, they relish in the small town lifestyle and events that bring visitors to the area.

“The best part [about being in business] is just the community,” Sam said. “It’s just a friendly, little town.”

Flint Hills Media Project faculty member Amy DeVault pets a dog outside of Salty Cow Mercantile, Thursday, June 11. The dog, owned by Salty Cow Mercantile owner Sam Lilley, lounged in the summer sun outside of the store on Thursday, June 11. Photo by Sean Jones