Scott Mueller

KINGMAN, Kan. (KSNW) – A Kingman native is on a mission to save small-town America, particularly his hometown.

“I am a place guy and this is a great place and I think it has kind of made me who I am over the years,” said Scott Mueller.

Scott Mueller grew up on a farm just outside of Kingman, Kan. The K-State graduate spent the last three decades on the west coast pursuing his career in agriculture economics. However, he never forgot the place that raised him.

“I think there’s a lot of ways to go back to your roots. A lot of people go back physically. I kind of went back and said, ‘what can I do?'”

That “do” began with one building project in 2017 after a trip home to see his dad, Charles Mueller.

“It was a crazy little community when I was young, you know, Saturday night and all the farmers busy, busy busy and all these places were full and then it crashed you know and about died,” said Charles.

“There were just a lot of empty buildings and I saw one and I thought maybe I could fix it up,” he explained.

Scott did just that. He contacted the owner of what appeared to be an abandoned building on Kingman’s Main Street.

“I found out that the owner had purchased it from out of state to do architectural salvage,” Scott explained. “He moved on and then quit taking care of it and quit paying taxes on it and so I was able to swoop in and pick it up and then that’s when the work started.”

It was a lot of work, according to Scott. It took days and numerous dump trucks to clear out the space.

2014 building collapse. Site of Binyard. (KSN Photo)

“I would just work 12 hours a day throwing stuff in the dumpster, passing out, and doing it again the next day just to get it done,” he said.

Before it was even finished, Scott told KSN that five people wanted to lease the three spaces. It now houses an art gallery, a vintage store and a financial business. Since 2017, Scott has bought and renovated five of Kingman’s 19 or so downtown buildings.

One of the most notable transformations is the space known as the Binyard, an indoor/outdoor market now located where a previous building collapsed.

“There was this empty lot with rubble and debris and it was just there,” Scott explained. “They cleaned that up, but nothing was happening so I asked the owner if I could have another project and he sold it to me.”

The Binyard consists of several refurbished grain bins. The bins, found on local farms, have electricity and lights perfect for vendors to set up shop. Most recently, local business owners started renting out the bins for weekend markets and get together.

Binyard in the fall. Courtesy: Scott Mueller

Since Scott started updating buildings, several new businesses and people have moved to town. He hopes the trend will continue.

“I thought COVID was going to take Kingman further down, but what happened is people started to look for places like this that had a history and a great place, good schools, all of that stuff,” Scott said. “I think there is a pride around where you are from and not everyone is going to agree with this, but I think there is a lot of community pride here.”

“There are quite a few people coming back even businesses coming back so whether it continues to survive who knows, but at least it’s going in the right direction,” said Charles.

Scott owns another empty lot on Kingman’s Main Street. He has plans in the works to build