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A piece of history has been revived.
When Chris Warden and John Wigger first purchased the vacant Ransom’s building in Desloge in April 2022, their goal was to renovate and use it as a rental property. But they kept hearing stories about the original owner of Ransom’s, Mr. Ransom, and how well-liked he was.
That led the pair to paint Ransom’s back on the building. (The original lettering can still be seen on the front of the building.)
Warden and Wigger continued to brainstorm ideas for the building.
And then it happened. While they were renovating the building, Warden was removing old tiles, and a piece of plastic fell out of the ceiling. The item was a sign with the words “candy store.”
“We took that as a sign,” said Warden, “that we should sell candy. So, we decided to make Ransom’s into a store again.”
Warden and wife Stephanie, along with Wigger and wife Erica, worship together at First Baptist Church in Desloge. They first met by working together in the student ministry and became friends. Years later, Warden and Wigger became co-workers in the Central School District. Warden is the technology director, and Wigger is now the maintenance director.
“Because we’re friends, we have a lot in common and spend a lot of time together,” said Warden. “We tend to want to have a good time with life, have fun, and we come up with a lot of ideas of how we can pull that off.”
He joked that their wives sometimes “dislike our antics, but they are mostly supportive.”
The pair’s business partnership began when Warden helped to start a state-wide school district technology conference, and Wigger helped him with that and other events. Together, the partners created Ridge Events, their business, which has a variety of entities. They’ve helped in creating the downtown Park Hills stage, esports expos, school district tech department website and podcast, and more. They’ve also added community-accessible Wi-Fi in Park Hills from the cab stand where the Ridge Events office is located. Ransom’s is the newest addition to this growing list.
Wigger said they do many different things within the community. More information can be found online at RidgeEvents.com.
When customers step into Ransom’s, they’re greeted by friendly employees and plenty of sweet treats and gifts. From ice-cold glass-bottled sodas to salt water taffy to jelly beans, there’s an endless supply of candies. There are numerous drink options, like the Pepsi fountain, bottled and canned sodas, energy drinks, juices and even Butterbeer (like in “Harry Potter”). Sweets and treats are plentiful, with things like the popular freeze-dried candy, peanuts and sunflower seeds, classic candies and many retro options. Pop’s popcorn is a top-selling product, especially the Chat Dump flavor, which tastes like puppy chow.
Customers can purchase some candies by the pound. They also won’t want to miss the chance to buy a custom box created just for Valentine’s Day. Stop by the store for more information.
There are many other items made by Parkland residents, like Pastor Bradford’s rubs and seasonings, Bannister’s soaps, Bill Martin’s charcuterie boards, books, Central and North County shirts, local honey, salsa and soups, jams, and much more.
Wigger said they work with several local people who make various products. In fact, he has his own line of Hawthorne Forge knives.
There are even kid-favorite options like slime and edible bubbles.
Warden and Wigger work hard to add new products to Ransom’s.
Since the business’s ribbon cutting in October, Ransom’s has already expanded to include many new products.
“If you visit us and we don’t have the item or candy you were looking for, let us know,” said Warden. “We keep adding things that people have recommended. Basically, this store is whatever we want it to be, and we want this store to be whatever the community wants it to be as well. We love to hear all ideas.”
“We want Ransom’s to be a store that you can visit daily with items you want all the time,” said Warden, “and also a store with mercantile and specialty items.”
Warden and Wigger are using Ransom’s as a source of friendship and fun.
“We’re having a great time watching the kids fill their jelly bean bags,” said Warden. “We have also really enjoyed people coming in who grew up with Ransom’s from before.”
The pair added that they have not yet been able to locate any old photos of Ransom’s, but they’ve heard several great stories.
“The people seem to be enjoying the nostalgia of Ransom’s,” said Warden, “and that makes us happy.”
The partners want people to make visiting Ransom’s part of their weekly — or better, daily — routine.
“We have great drinks in the store, and we’re trying to be cheaper than the gas station up the street,” said Warden. “If you are a fountain soda drinker, we’re your place.”
Customers can even purchase a special Ransom’s insulated cup that provides unlimited discounted refills.
“And we have the best lemonade this side of Desloge,” said Wigger.
He actually found an old recipe box in the wall when they were renovating Ransom’s. The lemonade recipe was in the box!
The two friends also genuinely appreciate their hard-working employees.
“We have some great retired ladies who work during the day and some wonderful high school and college students working most evenings,” said Warden. “We want Ransom’s to be a great first job for students to learn about a small business, working with money and gain customer service skills.”
Wigger’s wife Erica is Ransom’s store manager and the administrative assistant for Ridge Events.
Ransom’s is located at 100 N. Country Lane in Desloge.
“We’re open every day except Sundays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” said Warden. “We want to encourage folks to attend church on those days. We have students in our youth groups who work at Ransom’s, so we want to make sure they can attend church, too.”
The partners recently added a meeting room – adjacent to Ransom’s mercantile — where businesses and organizations can host meetings. The room is equipped with high-tech options, including a computer, interactive SMART board from Schiller’s, speakers, high-speed internet, wireless and wired network connections, charging station and printer access.
In addition to the meeting room, Warden and Wigger are adding something new and exciting to Ransom’s … food!
“We will be a great place to grab a bite to eat during your lunch break or dinner,” said Warden. “I won’t give any more hints than that!”
Whether you stop for a fountain or bottled drink, candies, popcorn or special gifts made by local residents – or a combination of all of these things – patrons are guaranteed to get a heaping dose of sweet nostalgia.
Pam Clifton is a contributing writer for the Daily Journal.