KENTON — The Merc is back in business.
The Panhandle's last — or first — resort, where motorists can buy a cool drink, snacks and souvenir knickknacks reopened April 26.
The store closed and went on the market after its former owner's wife died. It remained closed until Norman residents John and Judy Mayfield acquired it.
Now visitors once again can buy basic grocery items or order the Merc's signature "Beef-a-saurus” burger.
My son wanted to hike the Black Mesa last weekend — and I had a package to pick up at the Hitching Post Ranch — good excuses to escape to the more quiet setting. I was there in March with my Leadership Oklahoma class and The Merc at the time was dark.
Most surprising last week were the working gasoline pumps in front of the store — $3.50 a gallon, but that's a reassuring convenience in Kenton.
Manager Wes McBride said the new owners have been in love with Kenton for years, and The Merc has been one of John Mayfield's favorite destinations.
"He'd get on his bike and come here all the time,” McBride said.
McBride, who was living in Garden, Texas, after retiring from the restaurant management business, said he took the job his friends offered because of its location.
"I thought it was great because it's a part of Oklahoma I hadn't been before,” the Tulsa native said. "People are glad the store is back open. We're getting a lot of tourist this time of year. They come in for directions and information about where they can see things like the dinosaur tracks.”
The store opened just as locals are trying to get some commercial action in town.
Ranchers George and Terry Collins opened the Hoot Owl Ranch House restaurant in June in the Hoot Owl canyon about 5.