THE MAKING OF A DESTINATION POINT — Jim Hayward, owner of Hayward Fine Art Gallery, sits in the midst of his art gallery located in Independence. Steve McBride | Courtesy Photo
THE MAKING OF A DESTINATION POINT — Jim Hayward, owner of Hayward Fine Art Gallery, sits in the midst of his art gallery located in Independence. Steve McBride | Courtesy Photo

It's been three years ago when Jim Hayward, owner of Jim Hayward Fine Art Gallery, and Rhonda Clark came to Independence for a day trip and ended up opening a business. 

"We were living in Mobile, Ala. and came to Wichita to visit some of Rhonda's family and some friends I had there. While there we made a day trip to Independence," said Hayward. The main reason they came to Independence was because Clark wanted to see if Riverside Park and Ralph Mitchell Zoo was the same as she remembered it as a child. 

The trip to the park brought the two to the downtown area. "We were walking looking at the stores when we happened on this store and discovered the owner was wanting to sell the building. I made the comment the building would make a great art gallery and that is how we came to Independence," Hayward said. 

The couple had no plans to move to the city but the opportunity was what they were looking for. "I had heard of Independence but that's all. We bought the building and moved here — we were following our hearts," said Hayward. He added they say everyday they do not regret making the move to Independence. 

The two things Hayward sees as the driving force that brought them to the community was it was closer to Clark's family in Wichita and they were bringing something to the city that wasn't here at the time. Hayward immediately began work on opening Jim Hayward Fine Art Gallery at 221 N. Penn Ave. 

"Since we have arrived and opened a gallery there has been another open and another soon to be open … it's a dream come true. When people start realizing there is a lot of art here the community will become known as an art destination," proclaimed Hayward. 

Hayward and Clark felt the community has a good foundation for the retail business and they thought with their art gallery they could add to the strength of the downtown business. 

"It seems like more folks are realizing the importance of a vibrant downtown," he stated. "People are not only talking about it they are investing in it and that's what it takes." 

Hayward and Clark pride themselves in listening to the public and what they want in retail businesses. "We listen the best we can at what people are telling us and how that might work into our plans," he said. 

Hayward explained how he and Clark had contemplated a chocolate store for several years but it wasn't until a man came into the gallery and told them what the town needs is a chocolate shop. "We listen and when we heard several people mention the need for a chocolate shop, we were able to make it happen," Hayward noted.

With the addition of Confectionate Fine Chocolates and Specialty Candies they feel they are contributing to the overall vibrancy of the downtown. "Both the gallery and the chocolate shop have been very well received," said Hayward. 

The support from local residents has been overwhelming and the response from the surrounding area has continued to grow, according to Hayward. "We now have customers from all over southeast Kansas. I have customers from both coasts and the south who support my art. That is why we like Independence so much. It's an event town and that brings attention to our downtown," said Hayward. 

In conclusion, Hayward said, "We are thankful to live in a town that has so much going on. Rhonda and I often joke that if you are bored in this town it's your own fault."