Mercury sports editor plans to open western outfitter store

Josh Kinder is leaving the Manhattan Mercury after nine years as sports editor to start Yee Haw Country Outfitters, a western-wear store, to serve what he describes as an unfulfilled niche in Manhattan and the surrounding area. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

Josh Kinder, sports editor for The Manhattan Mercury, has made his childhood dream come true by becoming a sports journalist, but now he wants to shift his focus to another passion.

As Kinder reflects on his path to this point, he sits inside a once vacant building that now holds his new dream.

This vacant building, located at 431 Poyntz Ave., is the future home of Yee Haw Country Outfitters, Manhattan’s only full-line western apparel store, which Kinder said will open the first week of May.

As he answers questions, Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” plays over the speakers. The song is about living life to the fullest and having no regrets, and it reflected the mood Kinder was in at the current time.

“I’ve wanted to do this for a while,” Kinder said. “I know it’s going to be hard, but I felt like if I didn’t do it and make the jump, I was never going to do it. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity. I took a leap because I didn’t want to look back and say, ‘Gosh, I should’ve done that.'”

Returning to the rodeo

Kinder grew up in Dodge City, Kansas, a town that he said hosts one of the world’s largest rodeos and is known for its love of rodeo.

Even though he was around the rodeo life, Kinder said it was not always a desire he had in his heart.

“It really started hitting me (in Manhattan) when I was covering the rodeo for The Mercury,” Kinder said. “I made a lot of friends through it and learned so much more about the rodeo.”

Kinder said he enjoyed covering the rodeo for the newspaper, but he felt like he needed to do more to make his coverage more intriguing.

“I contacted a friend of mine that I knew through Dodge City,” Kinder said. “I called him and said I wanted to ride a bull. I thought that would be interesting if I wrote about the training that goes into riding a bull, and he put me in contact with K-State’s former rodeo coach, Steve Frazier.”

Multiple times a week for six or seven weeks, Kinder would go to Frazier’s farm, where Frazier taught him to ride a mechanical bull.

Kinder said if he sits too long, he can still feel the pain in his tailbone from each time he was thrown off the mechanical bull. Every time he fell off, which he said happened multiple times, he landed on rock-hard ground.

Kinder said the training led up to one week before the rodeo was held, when a young bull was brought into the arena for him to ride. He finally received his chance to do what he had watched and reported for years.

“(The bull) had never been ridden before, so I rode it twice that night,” Kinder said. “I did it once and it was the coolest experience ever, and I was like, ‘Let’s do it again!’”

Kinder said he lasted around two seconds on each attempt. Ted Harbin, Maryville, Missouri, resident, originally put Kinder in contact with Frazier. He said he thought Kinder was crazy.

“I thought he was out of his mind, in all honesty,” Harbin said. “But I applauded him for wanting to do something and wanting to do a series of stories from that viewpoint. As a longtime journalist myself, I thought it would make for some really interesting content.”

Kinder said he knew after this experience he wanted to take a turn on his career path and start something new.

Joel Jellison, sports writer at The Mercury, said he wishes Kinder the best of luck as he leaves the newspaper for his new store.

“I’m pretty excited for him and hopeful it works out,” Jellison said. “I know this is something (Kinder has) wanted to do for a while. He’s had a couple of crazy ideas over the past couple of years that he wanted to do. This one, though, really made a lot of sense for him. I was there when he rode the bull, and he’s really become kind of like a cowboy since that time.”

Jellison and Kinder have walked a lot of the same paths in their careers. Both are from Dodge City and both attended K-State.

Jellison said he attributes much of who he is today to what Kinder did for him.

“He took me under his wing in Dodge City when we worked together there,” Jellison said. “And then when he knew I was going to come to Kansas State, he had just taken the job of sports editor here and he wanted me right away.”

Path to journalism

While Kinder grew up around rodeos, his heart first belonged to sports. He said his dream to become a sports journalist began in high school after an injury took him out of the game.

“(I) blew my knees out, had two knee surgeries when I was a sophomore in high school, and it was never the same after that,” Kinder said. “For as good as I was, I was even worse after that. I wanted to stay in sports someway and be around it, so I went into journalism.”

Unable to play anymore, Kinder said he started working as a writer for the Dodge City High School newspaper, and he began to work for the Dodge City Daily Globe as a high school sports reporter before he graduated high school.

After graduating from Dodge City High School in 1998, Kinder came to Manhattan to attend K-State.

“I liked K-State because you didn’t have to be a journalism major to be on The Collegian,” Kinder said. “Other schools, you have to, and you need to wait until like your junior year, and I didn’t want to wait that long, not after I had been doing it for a year and getting paid for it. I just jumped head first my freshman year.”

Kinder joined the sports staff at The Collegian as a freshman in the fall of 1998. He said this was an exciting time to be a sports writer because the Wildcats’ football team was 11-0 and was the No. 1 team in the country.

“My freshman year was Michael Bishop’s senior year,” Kinder said. “It was unbelievable. I was a freshman and he was an icon. It was awesome being around him at press conferences with Michael Bishop and the season they had in ’98 — it’s unbelievable.”

Kinder graduated in 2004 with a degree in social sciences.

After graduation, Kinder headed home to Dodge City and wrote again for the Daily Globe. After working in Dodge City for three years, he headed down to Lawton, Oklahoma, to cover the Oklahoma Sooners for the Lawton Constitution. He stayed there for only a few months before accepting a job with The Mercury as the sports editor.

As the sports editor, Kinder took on various beats for the paper. One beat was women’s basketball. Kinder said he was able to get familiar with the women’s basketball program through coverage of games.

“I loved (the women’s basketball beat) because it was mine,” Kinder said. “The whole thing was mine. I took ownership because I could. I built relationships and got to know people.”

It was not until the fall of 2015 that he decided he was ready to move on from journalism to pursue a different interest. He decided to step away from sportswriting and open up a country outfitter store.

“I still like sports writing, I do,” Kinder said. “I just have to do something different. I love working for the paper, and there’s great people there that I’ll be friends with forever. It’s just more of a personal thing where I felt like I had to do something different.”

There is not a store in Manhattan that offers the full variety of apparel that Yee Haw Country Outfitters will offer, and there is no guarantee that it will work out in the end, Kinder said.

“It’s terrifying because it’s a huge challenge,” Kinder said. “I hope I do well, I hope I can fill a need and provide something for Manhattan and downtown. Anyone can wear this stuff. You don’t have to be from the farm, you don’t have to be a rancher, you don’t have to be in rodeo. You can wear it.”

But before he hangs up his hat as the sports editor for The Mercury, Kinder will have one more chance to cover a K-State athletic event before his store opens. The Wildcat football team hosts its annual spring game on April 23.

“I am happy,” Kinder said. “I purposely put my last day as the 23rd for the spring game. To do it one more time. To get in that press box one more time. I’m excited, but it’s surreal. It feels very strange. I’m excited for the future, and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done in the past.”