It looks like any other area sports bar until you see who is working behind the counter.
Nine months ago, Alan and Kim Nelson, parents of former K-State football player Jordy Nelson and women’s basketball player Kelsey Nelson, opened Nelson’s Landing, a restaurant and sports bar, in their hometown of Leonardville, Kan.
The Landing is located in the heart of Leonardville, about a 20-minute scenic drive northwest of Manhattan on U.S. Highway 24.
Opening the Landing
The Nelsons purchased the buildings for their restaurant in January 2007. By July, they had finished cleaning out the buildings and were ready to start construction. They opened Nelson’s Landing on Dec. 1, 2007.
Alan said they had considered opening a restaurant for several years, because Leonardville and the neighboring towns of Riley and Randolph, Kan. lacked places to eat. He said they also wanted to create a restaurant that was smoke-free and family friendly.
Farmers by trade, the Nelsons had to use their free time to start the Landing. Alan farms until dark and comes in for dinner every night, while Kim works at the restaurant everyday. The couple said it has been a good way to occupy their time since their children are grown.
“I guess it’s kind of empty-nest syndrome,” Alan said. “If somebody else opened it up, I’d still be up here every day anyway.”
The Landing Takes Off
Nelson’s Landing didn’t have a grand opening. The Nelson’s simply made a pot roast for some friends and family, and just like that, the Landing was open. However, the buzz around the community had already started.
Before they even opened, the Nelsons were taking reservations, and ever since, business has been booming.
Kim said they usually draw 100 to 150 people on Friday or Saturday night, when they feature live music.
“There are very few places where a local band can get in,” Alan said. “We had a kid from Clay Center, [Kan.,] in a band, playing, and it seemed half of Clay Center was over here watching that kid they knew.”
“I didn’t think we’d pull so many people from outside the community,” Kim said. “We get people from Clay Center, Manhattan, clear up to Waterville, Marysville.”
The restaurant’s namesake is one of the main reasons that it has been so popular with people from outside the Leonardville area.
All three of the Nelson children have worked at the restaurant at times since it opened, and in the process have attracted new business to the restaurant.
“It’s common to see K-State fans come in trying to catch a glimpse of Jordy or Kelsey,” Alan said.
“It’s interesting; you’ll see someone come in, and they’ll see someone that they think is him, and they’ll ask ‘Are you Jordy?’ or ‘Are you Kelsey?'” he said. “Any blonde-haired waitress they think is Kelsey.”
Kelsey waits tables from time to time at the Landing, and Jordy helped at the restaurant before he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of April’s NFL Draft.
The Nelsons said they saw many fans come to the Landing before and after basketball games last year, and they are excited to be established for football season this year.
“We’re going to have an advertisement on Powercat Gameday before the games,” Alan Nelson said. “We might be making a mistake, though, and have too many people and get totally swamped.”
The fame of her children drew people in, but the food has convinced customers to stay, Kim said.
“The nice thing about it is, all those people who came in at first looking for one of the kids, they’ve been back, which is a credit to our cooks,” she said. “They’ve been putting out good food.”
The Landing’s menu features burgers, steaks, brisket and even fried chicken gizzards and livers.
Alan said the hand-battered chicken fried steak is popular, as well as the homemade pies, which Kim’s mother makes. He said the burgers are popular too, because he gets all the meat from his own cattle.
“People ask, ‘What is that? I’ve never had a hamburger like that,'” he said. “Well, that’s what hamburger tastes like if you have hamburger from a family farm,” Alan said.
While Nelson’s Landing has been a success story for the Nelson family, it has been a victory for the Leonardville community as well.
“The town gave them the Citizens of the Year award, because it’s been several years since we’ve had an actual restaurant in town,” said Tom Fosha, a regular at the Landing. “That tells you what the town thinks of the Nelsons.”
When the Nelsons bought the property for the restaurant they also bought the two adjacent properties. One of the buildings was a bank and is more than 100 years old, while the other used to be a general store and will also be 100 years old in 2009.
Kim said she hopes to fix the buildings to preserve their history.
“They’re still in decent shape, and you just hate to see them sit there with nothing in them,” she said.