Main Street Kansas: Re-imagining the small town of Stockton

The M Motel in Stockton, Kansas (Photo courtesy KSN News)

STOCKTON, Kan. (KSNW) – A pair of businessmen are re-imagining small town living.

A yellow sign along Highway 183 directs travelers to the small town of Stockton, Kansas. Stockton is a place where American flags line downtown, where the traffic is scarce, but the chirping birds are abundant. Steven Mongeau was born and raised in the town of about 1,300 people.

The small town of Stockton has a population of about 1,300 people. (Photo courtesy KSN News)

“We knew everybody that pretty much lived in town and if somebody moved in we found out very quickly who they were and what it was really about,” Mongeau explained.

Mongeau eventually left Stockton to follow his real estate dream in Los Angeles. After about a 15-year stint living out-of-state, Mongeau moved back to his hometown.

“This opportunity kind of started to present itself and I put my house for sale, packed up the Uhaul and two years ago this month I arrived,” he said.

When Mongeau arrived he said he soon realized not much had changed in Stockton. He admitted it seemed more people were driving through the small town rather than stopping or even settling there. Being a real estate guru, Mongeau said he learned it was likely because of a lack of housing in the area.

“This isn’t a sexy or attractive market for people to be building housing, but at the same time there is a need for quality housing,” he said.

The need for quality housing quickly turned into Mongeau’s passion. It’s one of the reasons he and his business partner August Ochoa invested in Stockton’s M Motel.

“We want to give them a reason to get off I-70 and to take the back road through Highway 24,” Mongeau said.

Mongeau and Ochoa have worked tirelessly to transform the once old and rundown motel into a place people are proud to stay at. The sign out front is enough to get people to stop and stare. It says ‘Taylor Swift stayed here.’

Taylor Swift stayed at The M Motel early in her country music career. (Photo courtesy KSN News)

“Our most famous gust is Taylor Swift. She played for the Rooks County Free Fair a few years ago just as her career took the trajectory up,” Mongeau said.

Mongeau said the name Taylor Swift has helped drive some business, but he said a majority of his customers come for the small-town feel the M Motel provides.

“When people check in here, they slow down, they come out and they sit on the patios and they see the cars go by,” he said. “We want to provide something that may have a little nostalgia, again, we want to provide something that they can’t get at a name-brand hotel in the city.”

While the motel now appears to be in tip-top shape. Mongeau and Ochoa said it took a lot of hard work to transform it.

“I was going to name it the Bates Motel,” laughed Ochoa.

Ochoa now lives on the motel’s property with all nine of his dogs. He said when he and Mongeau took ownership of the property it was in poor condition.

“It was very outdated, so just adding all of the new electrical made a world of a difference,” he said.

Ochoa and Mongeau added all new decor, installed electrical outlets in each room, purchased coffee makers for each room and much more.

The M Motel was formerly Midwest Motel. It was built in 1950.

“So when you drive by or you look at the lawn, the landscapes they look as they did when it was built in early 1950, but we are also augmenting it with kind of a modern twist,” Mongeau said.

“It was just a beautiful place, but it needed a little more love,” Ochoa said.

Ochoa said the love the two owners have put into the motel has helped drive business to the area and in turn helped make Stockton a place where people stop instead of drive through.

“Before this people would go to Plainville. People would go to Hill City. People would go to Hays, Phillipsburg, Osborne for all of their fun stuff and now it’s coming back here,” Ochoa said. “All of the potential is here, so we are just going to continue doing what we are doing.”

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