This story is published in partnership with Ozarks Alive, a cultural preservation project led by Kaitlyn McConnell.
BUFFALO — The light blinks red at the corner of Maple and Main in Buffalo, pulsing like a metronome. Or, instead of that little tool that helps musicians keep time, maybe it’s like a heartbeat.
Because inside the coffee shop next to that light is a place transformed one Thursday a month into a listening room. There, community takes the stage through visiting, bigger-name, mostly folk musicians. It’s not a house concert, but from the soft, stuffed couches and chairs ready in rows, to hellos and hugs as folks walk in the door, it feels like home.
The concert series — officially known as The Old Home Place — began in 2009, a labor of love brought to life by mother-and-son Jacquelyn Strickland and Lyal Strickland. It’s a personal interest, given their backgrounds in the music industry, but it’s also a way to support the community where they have deep roots.
“Buffalo does not have a lot of arts and entertainment,” Jacquelyn said. “We wanted to do something here that would give people access to the arts. That’s why we keep our prices so low.”
Tickets to the concert series are just $10 each.
Setting the stage
Inside Maple & Main, the name of the coffee shop as well as the intersection, the Stricklands’ ties with the music industry are seen with a glance at the wall.
There, record albums — representing both of their work — show their talent. The connections with Dallas County are perhaps less obvious, but a hint is on the menu board, where in addition to lattes and other espresso drinks, it shows that grass-fed beef is for sale by the pound. That meat comes from Strickland Legacy Farms, which is co-owned by Lyal and Jacquelyn, as is the coffee shop. The farm is one of several owned by their family since moving to the area nearly 150 years ago.
“My ancestors came to Dallas County from St. Clair County in 1877,” Jacquelyn said.
Not all of their lives have been lived hereabouts. There were years away — like in the 1970s, when Jacquelyn was one of the top radio personalities in Memphis. That era was when she turned down a date with Elvis (really, sort of, but a story for another time). But home called, and she came back.
Lyal, too, started his work with music at an early age and has performed all over the country. The songwriter began as a performer at age 13 and, to date, has four studio albums to his name. With new material in hand, he’s also working on some plans for the future.
Those foundations and a music conference in 2008 led to an initial concert series at People’s Bank in Nixa — and the realization that the concept was one that should continue in Dallas County.
Stricklands chose Thursday night for a reason
The Stricklands began hosting the monthly concerts on Thursday nights, a decision which was intentional to catch bigger artists on their way through the area.
“Musicians on the road make most of their money on Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Jacquelyn said. “But they still have hotel bills and food and rent expenses to pay Monday through Thursday. So our idea was to put together a series where we could offer them a guarantee and provide private lodging, so they didn’t have a hotel bill, and had a chance to sell some CDs.”
Jacquelyn notes another reason was to help foster relationships in the music industry in connection with Lyal’s career.
Another priority was the aforementioned effort to bring arts and culture to Buffalo at an affordable price. Jacquelyn points to their concert series’ ongoing sponsors, which allow the Stricklands to offer a guaranteed amount to artists in addition to a split in ticket sales.
“Most people who play here get $30 a ticket where they play,” she said. “But we have business sponsors that are long-term sponsors and they allow us to have a guarantee and keep our ticket prices at $10 so that really anybody can afford to come.”
Coffee shop an unconventional decision
Jacquelyn chats while she works, readying sweet treats behind the counter of the coffee shop she also owns. The shop is younger than the concert series, as coffee didn’t start brewing until after they purchased the building.
“We bought the building, and then we thought, ‘This is an expensive thing to use one night a month,'” she said. “So we started the coffee shop.”
It was an unconventional decision, perhaps, and definitely a steep learning curve since Jacquelyn describes her previous experience in food service as 10-ish weeks at a drive-in in 1968.
“I love talking to people and it’s a wonderful opportunity here,” she said. “People come in all day long from all over the country and I talk everybody’s ears off.”
A door to community
It’s 6 p.m. when the doors open for February’s concert, the night fading to a shade of black as day settles into dusk.
Guests come through the door, checking in with Jacquelyn. For those with reserved seats, a laminated piece of paper featuring their name marks their spot on one of the couches or chairs rearranged near the corner stage.
“There’s so much music in the Ozarks, but I like exposing touring artists to folks in Buffalo,” Lyal said, as well as showing touring artists the Dallas County town. “Everyone seems to get a kick out of it.”
The coffee bar is open and folks line up to order their favorite brew or those baked goods — slices of cherry pie topped with a lattice crust, or strawberry cupcakes with berries pressed into pink frosting are on the night’s menu — and take their seats.
One of those people is Mary Hall of Springfield, who regularly makes the 45-minute drive to Buffalo for the concerts.
“I go to a lot of stuff in Springfield,” said Hall, who became connected with the Stricklands when she began following Lyal’s music years ago. “Most musicians in Springfield you will see over and over in different venues. These musicians, you aren’t going to see anywhere else in this area.”
Musicians love the intimacy of the coffee shop
That musician for this particular concert is Tim Grimm. Originally from Indiana, the songwriter spent time in the 1990s in Los Angeles — he co-starred “for two seasons on the NBC drama ‘Reasonable Doubts,’ worked on the movie ‘Clear and Present Danger’ with Harrison Ford, and appeared in several other films and TV projects,” his bio says. But he also writes songs about people and rural life and the connections that bind our stories together.
“Look at this room. I would always rather play a room this size,” Grimm said before the show, speaking about why he’s come back to Buffalo to perform numerous times. He tells of concerts held in people’s houses and the vibe they share with The Old Home Place: “There’s no better place to play because of the intimacy and that I can talk to people, and people can come up and talk to me.”
He takes the stage around 7 p.m., much to the delight of Jim Norwood, who traveled from around three hours away with Sharon Norton to attend the concert. Norwood has been waiting around 15 years for this night after a memorable performance Grimm gave all the way back when Bush may still have been president.
“He put a real good show on for us, so I’ve kept my eye out for him,” Norwood said. “He’s one of those types that’s a very good storyteller.”
Money is not a motivator for concert series
Those stories-turned-songs shine from the stage with Grimm, playing a guitar made from wood found in his family barn, built from a legendary tree cut down years before he was born. That was a song, too.
Through his voice, he shares moments of life. They reflect his, to be sure, but also ones that express the greater human experience: he sings one about his grandfather; another about a man he met while buying bales of hay; and even a number where all problems can be blamed on the family dog.
They are moments that bring laughter, applause and perhaps a few tears.
“We don’t make any money on this,” says Jacquelyn. “It’s just not the reason we’re doing this.”
Information on The Old Home Place is available on the concert series’ Facebook page.