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Weekender: Somerset Schoolhouse

Experience a New Kind of Community Gathering in 'The Faculty Lounge'

While the students are away, the teachers will play; The Faculty Lounge is now in session at Somerset Schoolhouse! 

Gather your friends and family and add to your weekend itinerary this renovated 1920s schoolhouse that will captivate your love for shopping local artisan goods, craft cocktails-specifically whiskey, and a variety of live musicians performing you’ll find at least twice a month.

What’s genuinely charming about this destination is the heartfelt, family stories that precede it and are a major inspiration in owner Lesli Baker’s decision to turn this historical establishment into a modern-day gathering spot.

I had the opportunity to hear Lesli’s first-hand story about growing up a stone’s throw away from where the schoolhouse stands, as well as the tales she heard for years from her father, uncles, and grandmother, all born and raised in this once bustling Kansas town. Those tales ultimately became the predominant influence in her next business venture. 

Somerset was a place where previous generations were a small and tight-knit community in a thriving district that hosted a blacksmith shop, railroad depot, two markets, and the post office. And the common thread amongst the family memories is how the schoolhouse was THE foundation for the community’s bond before eventually closing its doors for good.

Flash-forward to a time we all know too well, of being isolated from everyone near and far in the thick of a pandemic, but also the pivotal moment when Lesli realized what she was missing - that joy of a tried and true community! Lesli tapped into her entrepreneurial spirit to convert what had turned into a residence for the last several decades and bring back the schoolhouse charm. She had an overpowering vision to recreate a place where people would put their phones down, look each other in the eye, and have a conversation. 

So the process began in early 2021, from purchasing the property to rolling up her sleeves and doing what she does best, getting dirty and tearing things up in her DIY fashion;  while she said it certainly wasn’t pretty, Lesli KNEW what awaited her underneath it all, telling her husband, “Trust me, this is going to be something great.” 

Lesli likes to shop and LOVES everything about the 1920s era, and her husband likes a good game and a glass of whiskey. She wanted to combine their passions and create a place where people will come and not want to leave; there’s something for everyone, from shopping the boutique to indulging in a flight of whiskey, catching a game AND playing a game, tossing horseshoes and bags, and enjoying the beautiful nature of Somerset from the cozy patio that hosts ongoing live music. 

 “Trust me, this is going to be something great.”

Lesli was also very intentional about wanting to stay with anything school-related; so, one will find that the speakeasy is cleverly named the Faculty Lounge, the cocktails are dubbed ‘Teacher’s Pet,’ ‘Detention,’ and ‘Vice Principal’ among others, and the soon-to-open back patio bar will be called ‘The Bus Stop.’

She loves supporting local artisans, so you’ll find the Vice Principal signature cocktail includes Louisburg Cider and the Spelling Bee (aka Lemon Drop) features neighboring Somerset Ridge Winery’s Citron. 

Many of the boutique items are from local makers all around the region as well, like Be Made Mercantile matches made in Hays, KS and Magnolia Scents by Design candles made in Independence, KS. Their story is often featured next to the products so the consumers know they are buying local. Many of her favorite finds come from local farmers’ markets, such as Kansas City Caramels her daughter discovered, and she ultimately carries things that other people love, including friends, family, and customers. 

Another noteworthy event Lesli and her team put on is every second weekend in September, previous students/graduates who attended the school are invited back for a reunion to reminisce and celebrate the good times, both then and now. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Somerset Schoolhouse event without locally made drinks and eats, including Fannie Franks Coffee Cakes and serving their exclusive coffee blend created by local roaster Brews and Brews Company.

Now, if you’re out there thinking to yourself, “But whiskey’s just NOT my thing,” hear ye: The female population jumping aboard the whiskey bandwagon is flourishing right now; take it from Lesli who once shied away from ordering whiskey, but after ‘business research’ with local whiskey ambassadors who taught her how to find what she prefers (p.s. these ambassadors actually have a masters degree in whiskey; who knew that was a thing!), she now knows how to drink and can speak to women just like you who are willing to take the leap. The Brown Derby is a highly-popular cocktail in the lounge.

It should also be noted that Somerset Schoolhouse only serves middle of the road to high-end whiskey with roughly 40 spirits offered, and counting. If you come in asking for Jack Daniels, you will receive Gentleman’s Jack. 

If you really want to get adventurous, try a whiskey flight of (3) that run for $25 and is discounted on Thursday at just $15. Or, ask about group events where classes are taught. Eventually, there will be a whiskey club membership featuring a high-end whiskey to dabble in. And speaking of additions, the quintessential exterior speakeasy door with the red light, green light + must have the password system for entry. The novelty is thriving at this South KC spot!

“It’s where the teachers can get into trouble without the risk of running into students!“

Somerset Schoolhouse is a place you will feel like you are experiencing something from the past and will get the feeling of community when there. The speakeasy is quaint, perfect for making new friends and discovering your mutual love for all things Kansas City. And, it’s where the teachers can get into trouble without the risk of running into any students! 

Speaking of which, teachers are naturally favored in the Faculty Lounge so show your badge and you will receive an exclusive discount (applies to military personnel as well). And there will soon be a secret menu available only to teachers with select cocktail and food offerings. 

Somerset Schoolhouse

28740 Somerset Rd, Paola, KS 66071

Thursday-Saturday: 10 AM - 8 PM & Sundays 12 PM - 6 PM

@somersetschoolhouse on Instagram

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