Pawhuska, Oklahoma, went from a 'ghost town' to a thriving tourist hub thanks to 'The Pioneer Woman' -- here's what it's like to visit

Pioneer WomanRee Drummond‘The Pioneer Woman’ Ree Drummond and her husband, Ladd.

A Food Network show is transforming a small town in Oklahoma. 

In 2011, the Food Network aired the first episode of “The Pioneer Woman,” starring Ree Drummond. The show, which was based on Drummond’s popular cooking blog, quickly turned Drummond into one of the most beloved personalities on the network.  

Now, a small town near Drummond’s family’s ranch is reaping the benefits of the star’s success. 

Pawhuska, Oklahoma — a small town with just 3,600 residents  — attracts up to 15,000 visitors a day thanks to the success of “The Pioneer Woman,” Thrillist’s Khushbu Shah reported. Tourists flood the town to eat at Drummond’s restaurant, shop at her general store, and revel in the “Pioneer Woman” lifestyle. 

Shah’s piece paints a fascinating picture of an evolving town. And, it got us wondering what it’d be like to visit Pawhuska ourselves. 

Here’s a peek into how one television show transformed the Oklahoma town. 

Pawhuska isn't easy to get to. The closest airport, Tulsa, is more than an hour away.

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Prior to the rise of 'The Pioneer Woman,' the town's biggest claim to fame was being the site of the first Boy Scout troop.

More than one person told Shah that Pawhuska was a 'ghost town' until recently.

There are no hotels and few restaurants, except for a Sonic Drive-In on the edge of town. Even the town's Walmart shut down in 1995, and the site has since been turned into a warehouse for Drummond's 'Mercantile.'

Drummond and her husband, Ladd Drummond, opened 'The Mercantille' in 2016.

'The Merc,' as it is often called by Drummond and her fans, is a triple threat: bakery, deli, and general store.

Up to 15,000 customers flock to Pawhuska every day to visit the site.

Customers wait in line for hours, with some arriving as early as 5 a.m. to get into the restaurant.

The menu features some of Drummond's recipes from her blog and Food Network show.

Drummond is known for her comfort food, meaning the menu is filled with items like pancakes, mac and cheese, and chicken fried steak.

The general store is packed with knick knacks, kitchenware, and home decor.

Basically, it's a Ree Drummond-approved Cracker Barrel.

There's also a bakery-coffee shop hybrid.

Drummond jokingly said that the coffee shop was centered around her desire for a high-quality espresso drink. 'I felt that I really did this whole thing, just so that I could have a good cup of coffee everyday,' she told Thrillist.

Source: Thrillist

Drummond lives slightly outside of Pawhuska.

As the name of her blog and show would indicate, Drummond lives on a ranch: Drummond Ranch, just outside of the town.

Ladd Drummond comes from a prominent ranching family. With more than 440,000 acres, the Drummonds are one of the top 20 largest landholders in the US.

The Drummonds are far from finished when it comes to bringing new activity to Pawhuska.

This summer, the lodge by Drummond Ranch began offering free tours on select days.

There's construction on what Drummond referred to on Instagram as 'another restoration project we've been working on in our small town.'

And, it's helping Pawhuska as a whole. According to Thrillist, nearly a dozen new business have opened over the past year or so, and the town's sales-tax revenue has risen 33% across all businesses.

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