The year was 1969. Ken Fulk was the Iowa State Fair Manager. He was acquainted with Marv Walter and Bud Nichols who owned and operated Carriage House Meats and Provisions in Ames.
Ken knew the Carriage House reputation for quality meats and asked Marv and Bud if they would be interested in selling quality beef and pork sandwiches at the Fair. They agreed, and decided to sell sandwiches, pop and beer (some farmers were known to drink an occasional beer in 1969) from the original Carcass Display Building. They enlisted the help of Mr. Shie Foudree who operated the concession at the State Fair Grandstand.
Stockman’s Inn was thus established in 1969 by Marv, Bud and Shie. They operated only inside the Carcass Display Building and became the sixth establishment on the Fairgrounds to serve beer, featuring Pabst Blue Ribbon for many years. Beef, pork and lamb carcasses continued to be displayed through the glass windows of the large walk-in cooler inside the building, much like the large windows in the Agriculture Building that display the famous butter cow each year. This cooler still exists, and serves as a food and kegged beer storage area for Stockman’s today. The original building is currently the kitchen, storage and air-conditioned dining room of Stockman’s Inn.
In early 1972 Lyle Kreps took over Mr. Foudree’s interest in Stockman’s. A bar was constructed outside on the south side of the building and was covered by a retractable, canvas awning.
In 1973 the concrete slab adjacent to Stockman’s on the west was discontinued as a display area by Fawn Engineering and was added to Stockman’s as a patio. Tables constructed of very large spools, and shaded by umbrellas, were placed on this outdoor patio.
In 1974 Lyle purchased Marv and Bud’s interest in the business. He and his wife, Sharon, their children Brian, Jason, Jennifer, and their families, have operated Stockman’s Inn ever since.
In 1976 a permanent roof was constructed over the outside patio and bar. In addition, the exterior of the building was paneled with rough wood. These updates gave Stockman’s better-suited seating & dining areas, as well as an Old West feel.
Then, in 1985, a separate,
small building was built around
the large Sycamore tree west of Stockman’s and umbrella tables were placed between the two buildings. The Stockman’s Inn “Treehouse”, as it came to be called, gave a much needed presence on the west sidewalk and provided a convenient way for people to grab a quick drink or sandwich.
The outdoor seating area became a very popular place for fairgoers to sit, relax and “people-watch”.
Stockman's Inn 1999
In late 1999 and early 2000, the State Fair restored the Cattle Barn.
In the process, much of Stockman's Inn was to
be torn down and rebuilt. During that
renovation a large crack developed in the
original Stockman's building, nearly causing it
to collapse, and it became necessary for the
building to undergo a complete overhaul.
Repairs, additional improvements and updates were made to the remaining part of the building. A brick facade and white tongue-in-groove doors were added to coordinate with the Cattle Barn and a new “Treehouse” was built with “Iowa’s Largest Cowboy Hat” as its roof.
In 50 years Stockman’s Inn has grown from being able to seat 80 people to about 350, expanded from 5 employees to over 60, and has served governors, senators, presidential candidates and entertainers.
But our favorite customers will always be the farm families, our local friends and acquaintances, and everyone in a cowboy hat. We still love to hear people say, “I’ll meet ya’ at Stockman’s”!
To all those who have come and gone over the past half a century, and to all who return each year, we'd like to say,
The Kreps Family