Every community, no matter its size has at least eight items it can build on.
Aladdin, Wyoming is a favorite stop on our cutoff from Belle Fourche, SD to Sundance, Wyoming whenever we’re headed to Colorado. This micro-sized community packs a punch with everything from local foods and wine, cowboys and cattle, unique shopping and tourism.
Aladdin easily covers all eight assets- Arts/Culture, Architecture, Cuisine, Customs, History, Geography, People and Commerce
“Everything fits into one of these categories. Every town, even ghost towns, have a story to tell about each one.”- Kansas Sampler Foundation
Here’s my take –
Geography – Aladdin is just to the east of the Bear Lodge Mountains and has covered plateaus and pine and oak covered coulees and draws. Stunning vistas no matter which direction a person looks. Aladdin also had an abundant coal seam, which was mined and sent to smelters near Deadwood. *Bonus- there is an average of 226 sunny days a year!
Arts/Culture – Brand new this year is the inaugural Aladdin Days Country Music and Food Festival on June 16th! (I can hardly wait, since it coincides perfectly with my next trip down!!) In the meantime, when visiting the mercantile there is local artwork – paintings, hand decorated skulls, notecards, etc- available and books from Wyoming authors. Right across from the store is the Centennial Park- with picnic benches and toys for everyone to enjoy.
Architecture– The Aladdin Mercantile store was built in 1896 and is a prime example of early stores. This mercantile has been in continuous operation the entire time! The false front was a common feature during this time period. Just a hop and a skip to the east of town is the Aladdin Tipple. Another prime example of early engineering and one of the last wooden tipples.
Cuisine– Right next door to the mercantile is Cindy-B’s café and hotel. It doesn’t look like much from outside, but don’t let that fool you. The food is good, portions pretty generous and good prices. Not to mention you can sit on the patio and soak up the sun while you have morning coffee!
Inside the mercantile you will find sandwiches, snacks and a small bar. Local whiskeys and wines too! (Chris Ledoux, anybody???)
Customs– Aladdin is in the heart of “Cowboy Country” and that means a certain set of rural values abound. A mans word is his bond and handshake still means something. Men will always treat women like ladies and friendliness is the order of the day.
History– (I could go on and on about local history, but I’ll keep it short!) Aladdin was founded in the late 1800s on coal and logging. The Mercantile was opened in 1896. The coal mined in Aladdin was loaded onto rail cars for use by gold smelters in Lead and Deadwood. In 1874 Colonel Custer was in the Aladdin area during his Black Hills expedition. Population peaked at 200 +/- during it’s coal mining years, but today hovers around 15.
People– The people of Aladdin are a hearty bunch. Deeply committed to the land, their faith, community and country. Always friendly and ready to help in a pinch. Many nearby residents are descendants of local settlers. Want to know how the West really was?? Ask a local. They are usually very happy to share personal stories and local lore.
Visitors to Aladdin are equally as jolly. It’s a popular stop on the way to Devils Tower, Sturgis and for hunters and fishermen.
Commerce– The Aladdin Mercantile has it ALL- Literally. It may be a one-man-band so to speak, but Wow! It carries artwork, clothing, antiques, foods and beverages, jewelry, gifts- truly, everything. And make sure to send home a postcard from the little post office tucked inside and sit a spell on the porch.
The next time you’re road-tripping, make it a point to get off the road at Aladdin and enjoy the sights. You won’t be disappointed!
“Kate’s 8” are a way of showcasing small towns and rural communities. When looking at your own town, get creative and see how many ways you can fit what you have into these categories and get creative with your marketing!
*Katy is part of the dynamic speaking duo Tait and Kate- helping small towns and rural communities grow and thrive.
Many states have raised the minimum wage today. 18 in fact. Several of them to over $10 an hour. Read about it here
Now don’t get me wrong- I don’t begrudge anybody a chance to make a decent living. I would have loved to be on the receiving end as a worker and as an employer would have been ecstatic to be able to pay my employees more.
But I do believe that these states did not really try to take their rural communities into account. In particular isolated rural communities.And if they did, it was only to spare a second to think to themselves ‘they don’t have enough people to matter’..
I’ve lived in several incredibly tiny rural communities in a couple of the states listed. We owned a business in one. A little town of a hundred people, 135 miles from the city (700K ppl), and 45 miles to the nearest ‘urban’ center (3500ppl) . Our nearest communities had 27 and 300 people respectively. Those numbers have not fluctuated all that much in the years since we left.
Many rural businesses cannot sustain a fair sized increase in minimum wage. -Not even if it’s over a number of years.
I know many will say “Oh- What’s a buck or two?” – A couple dollars multiplied by 30 -40 hours a week adds up. On top of that the employer will now pay a higher unemployment tax, FICA and workmans comp. – all of which can hinder the ability to pay an employee a higher wage.
Those same dollars can also spell the difference between whether that rural community continues have a hardware store, market, café etc…
Here are some scenarios– Bobs Hardware is a busy little place servicing several tiny communities. Bob needs help.- he hires Joe to come work and pays him the elevated wage. Joe is happy. For a time. -You see, Bob has to either sell more or cut Joes hours to afford the wage.
Bob can’t really sell any more than he already is because he doesn’t have the same traffic an urban or city business attracts. Bob is 145 miles from people. His customers are the farmers, ranchers and families in his area. And they can only buy so much. So Bob cuts Joes hours.
Or.… Let’s say Bobs Hardware already has several employees. The minimum wage goes up. Bob has to choose. Does he cut everyone’s hours? Or does he let two go and keep Joe? And if he keeps Joe, is Joe going to up and quit because Bob expects him to work harder for the new wage? Even if he pays a little more than the ‘new wage’- Joe may eventually build up resentment of having to do more work.
Or… Bobs Hardware employs Joe. The wages go up. Bob can no longer afford to have even one employee. So Bob, who’s already run his rural business for decades let’s Joe go. Bob can no longer do all the work himself and cuts his business hours which in turn loses some revenue. Eventually Bob just throws in the towel and closes leaving communities without their only hardware store AND an empty/shuttered building on Main Street. That in turn leads to lower property values for the entire community. And potentially lost revenue for the gas station, since the local farmer filled fuel on his way home from Bobs Hardware and grabbed a coffee at the cafe. In the meantime, Joe was let go and job opportunities in a town of a couple hundred are slim. Joe has moved to the city for work taking what disposable income he had with him, and quite possibly his kids out of school and money out of the donation plate at church that helped fund local causes or 4-h etc.
Or… Bob raises his prices significantly in an effort to afford his wage increase and in the process actually loses business. – Many rural folk will save ‘it’ for a trip ‘to town’ when ‘it’ is no longer cost effective to buy locally. At the same time, when those folks go to town they will spend the entire day and do ALL their shopping and stop at the café to boot, bypassing their own community all together.
I have witnesses every one of these scenarios over the years.
**99% of small business owners in rural communities WANT to pay their employees better. They genuinely love their towns and the people within and want them to survive and thrive.
**A huge number of those same employers work tremendous amounts of hours themselves “FOR FREE” so they CAN employ someone from the area. (we did)
**Sometimes in lieu of money they find other creative compensation. We did. If we hadn’t we wouldn’t have been able to be open enough hours to even pay ourselves a meager living.
So while I don’t necessarily think the new wages are bad, I do think they will force some hard decisions in rural communities.
In equal numbers, some businesses will find a way and some will not. Some will close. Some will hang on- for a while, maybe longer. Some will thrive.
Next time we’ll talk about some of the creative ways we’ve seen businesses in tiny communities thrive.
Katy is a rural and small town consultant with Tait and Kate Consulting ~Helping rural communities grow and thrive~
Yes- I should have done this sooner. Better late than never~
This is a rebuttal to the editorial in the Washburn Leader-News newspaper in July. ( I said it was overdue!) and gives random thoughts section by section.
(the True to Washburn editorial is at the bottom of this post in its entirety. )
“True to Washburn” – Not so much
As with any community the world over, they begin and then they change. Whether that change is good, bad or otherwise, there is an ebb and flow to every community. They evolve over time. New people and new businesses take the place of those that left or closed. Attitudes, economics and options dictate that change.
To say that Washburn could become “a mere memory” is is mis-statement. If that were truly the case, then Washburn is already a mere memory of what it was.
“Opportunities, community and safety- these are some of the reasons make a home in Washburn….” So are progressiveness and growth. Without these the others don’t exist.
“WE came here…” We who exactly? My guess would be that a door to door survey would reveal that nearly half or more have moved to Washburn for proximity to employment.
“Where is our money best spent and our priorities located?“…So say the very folks that shop in other larger towns. There is no law that says any of us owes a living to any shop owner anywhere. That is freedom of choice. The same as the shop owner is free to choose whether to be pleasant or rude, open or closed. While I agree that ‘shopping local’ means those businesses will be there for the long haul, it is perfectly OK to spend money ‘in town’ as well. Besides- if a shopkeeper is going be rude, we’d just as soon go to town and be treated rudely anonymously and have more selection while it’s happening!
(And I quote a young employee from the grocery store in Washburn… “If you’re going to shop here, you should expect to lower your expectations” )
“Not competition from a nation wide chain” …. Then why has Family Dollar been accepted so readily? The upshot is that competition is healthy, drives customer services, innovation, better products and more people stopping in town. If a national chain is what it takes to drive the 50,000+/- tourists to Washburn yearly downtown, then so be it.
“…additions to the community must be done thoughtfully and over time.” It would seem the time is now.
“A sense of belonging-” That IS a powerful reason to stay. But to achieve that, then don’t you think on the whole the ‘locals’ should treat newcomers like neighbors? Belonging can be a powerful word. Act like it.
“We can promote what we have”…We can clean and freshen…” It’s been years since there was a serious effort in these departments. Thankfully there is some new leadership that is working hard at making a difference for ALL and not just some.
“We want to nurture that environment, not snuff it out.” Enhance it, is more like it. And again.. we who exactly?
…”Becoming a different version of Bismarck or Garrison” No matter how hard anyone tries, or what new people or businesses come into Washburn, it will always be Washburn.
“Let’s think carefully as we add new things, as not to push out the old” Again- ENHANCE…. Nobody is ‘pushing out the old’…
“Locals are resistant to change.” TRUE. But remember- Always in NOT Forever! It’s a given, change is hard to accept. All things change. Once upon a time we shopped our towns exclusively. Now we are an extremely mobile society. Running to Bismarck or Minot or anywhere else is a breeze. That is change. New stores open. That is change. Are you going to begrudge AgPro because they are new? (that would just be plain silly!) Would you refrain from driving over the bridge because it replaced the ferry? (That would be plain silly too!) That is change. The way we eat has changed. Many folks want a really quick, or a really fresh choice- without getting out of the car and without having to fix it themselves. That is change.
Mostly though, it would seem the most resistance to change involves the human element.
Leader News Editorial-
Opportunities, community, safety-these are some of the reasons people come from out of the city and decide to make a home in Washburn. We moved here because we would know our neighbors, our teachers, our business owners. We came because we weren’t just one in hundreds of thousands here, but someone who could make a big a difference. We moved here, not because of a single feature, building or business, but because we fell in love with what the community represented. And as plans are drawn up and ideas pour out, we can only hope we don’t see the city we chose become a mere memory. Let’s grow, but let’s not lose touch with our roots. So, as we think of what we can add, let’s remember what we need. Where is our money best spent and our priorities located?Maybe we need new signs and benches around town, and maybe our residents need help paying off special assessments that shook most the city. Some would enjoy more fast food options in the city, but maybe we can bridge the gap by supporting and growing our already established local eateries. Our local businesses need employees to fill shifts and involvement from the community, not competition from a nation wide chain. Maybe new attractions would give residents more places to go, but additions to the community must be done thoughtfully and over time. Maybe we need to push less to have more, and push more to improve what we already have. Because there is a reason so many decide to make this place their home, and that sense of belonging is not something to overlook. This city has brought people from around the state, around the country, around the world. It is strong, independent and booming with history. And while we only hope to bring more neighbors to the city, we also know no city is the right fit for every person. Itis a place that people choose because of exactly what it is. Washburn, like any other city, has room to improve. We can fill gaps that leave residents wanting more or visitors quickly passing through. We can promote our recreation and try new things at attractions we already have. We can clean and freshen up our community, without losing a sense of what makes it special. Because Washburn brings people who fall in love with the feeling of it, we want to nurture that environment, not snuff it out. As we push for new features, and new marketing to promote them, we hope the focus doesn’t lay so heavily on becoming just another version of Bismarck , Garrison or another city Washburn should never become. There is a saying around town that many of the locals are resistant to change, which is probably true. Because who would want to risk seeing a city they love change into something else? Maybe instead, we should strive to simply improve, to grow,to flourish. Let’s embrace what sets this city apart, and keep that message in the forefront of our minds. Let’s think carefully as we add new things, as to not push out the old. Let’s strive for better without losing sight of who we are. One hundred and thirty five years ago, this city was founded. And since then, generations have made a life here, because the city felt like home. Let’s not make the mistake of forgetting what a beautiful home it is. -The Leader News editorial board consists of Alyssa Meier, Don Winter and Hayley Anderson
An entryway says so much about a building. It is space that is often overlooked, but sets the tone for what is ahead.
What does yours say about you? It can tell us what type of business is in there. If it is open or closed.
Is yours welcoming? Does it tell a story? Spark the imagination? Tempt you?
An entryway can also be art. It can be so many things!
In Berthoud, Colorado a joint effort between the city, businesses and homeowners produced Entryways of Berthoud to showcase art and their community. They invited folks to submit photos of entryways and these were then turned into notecards and posters.
An entryway for a business has many functions and is an important part of the establishment itself. It may act as the local bulletin board in a rural community, or set the tone of the business.
An entryway can provide a striking entrance with uses of color and architectural details. Or lead into a more formal atmosphere with more subdued touches.
Similar to the beginning a chapter in a book, an entryway establishes a story that has yet to unfold.
An entryway is also a very affordable way to change a businesses dynamic. It is a spot where risks can be taken, and even on a limited budget, have a remarkable effect.
Think about the places you frequent. How do they make you feel? Welcome? Not so much?
We like our homes to be welcoming and inviting. Our businesses should be too.
How can you use your entryway to enhance your business or community?
Katy is a rural and small town /small business speaker, consultant, advocate & writer. She believes many small communities can grow from within using resources already at hand and creative strategies and leverage those to attract new families, businesses and customers. Do you want Tait & Kate to come speak to your community or group? Email us at email@example.com
The “Shop Local” movement is wonderful. It has done so much and brought tons of awareness and added sales for so many businesses and communities, especially small & rural towns.
Having lived and traveled all over this great big United States, I have spent much time in very small towns. Over the years- long before “shop local” and “shop small” became catch phrases, I noticed that a considerable amount of shop owners seem to think they are entitled to your business.
As a business owner, in any size community, it is your prerogative to ignore customers, treat them badly or carry shoddy merchandise. You have choices. But when you do choose to treat your customers badly you have no right to expect them to patronize your business.
Did you know it only takes a customer 7 seconds to form an opinion of your business??
Do not make the mistake that just because you may be the only such-and-such in xyz town, that the good folks have to shop with you.
~Nothing could be further from the truth~
UPS, FedX, USPS are our friends along with Amazon, EBay & Etsy and a whole host of other options that are Not YOU. There are neighboring towns or we may just chose to save our purchase for the next trip to the city and spend ALL of our dollars there.
People are not obligated to shop with you just because you have a business. You have to earn it.
But if you are friendly and helpful, even when you don’t have what we need, we will remember and patronize you regularly.
Try to remember that even in a small town, the people who live there do not owe you a living. It’s up to you to make us want to shop there. You have to earn it. And it will repay you ten-fold.
There are a multitude of reasons WHY a community should have teenagers participating on the boards and councils. ~ But I will limit my self to just a few!
1) According to a University of Nebraska national survey of rural youths, 50% (that’s right folks! FIFTY PERCENT) WANT to return to their communities in the future.
That’s a fabulous number! Now what are YOU going to do with that information?
What is your community to have to offer these returning ‘youngsters’ down the road?
Jobs? Things to do? Places to hang out? Wi-Fi hot spots? Entertainment for new families? Buildings to start businesses in?
I would bet if you asked these youngsters what they would want to have, you would be surprised by their answers. If you let them, they will help you carve a new future for your community.
I met two extraordinary young men at the RuralX conference in Aberdeen a couple weeks ago. They were the youngest attendees at 16 & 17 years old. Both want to “come home” to Miller SD when they are done with school. Both want to open businesses. Both want to be able to express their ideas now to council and desire to be a part later. They want to listen us and for us to listen to them. Luckily, they live in a rural community that embraces young and old alike!
2) A vested interest in the community makes a difference. Most of the time it seems that my father’s generation is the last to truly be a vested part of a community at a young age. Really think about that. For hundreds of years, people were expected to shoulder adult responsibilities and participate in community events at a young age.
When and Why did we stop expecting our children to be a part??
When these youth feel valued and a part of the community, they are more likely to participate and volunteer. They will readily step up and lead the charge for whatever task is at hand.
(I could name a number of communities where the youth are put on ignore. It doesn’t bode well for those particular towns future.)
You could coordinate with the school so these youth get credit for attending meetings and so on.
I believe this is doubly important in rural communities. Without a large population to draw from, we need to build from within. Let them participate, share ideas and be a part.
3) Trust ~ Pretty simple, huh?
Let me give you an example; You trust the local teenagers to be LIFEGUARDS at the pool, responsible for your children. You have faith in their judgement that they will save a drowning child.
So why would you not trust their opinions or ideas?
Sure! Some of their ideas may be far fetched to us. But I am sure some of ours were just as far fetched to our ‘elders’. But without the dreams and forward thinking and enthusiasim, rural communities will wither away.
So put a little trust in these kids and give them a seat at the big table.
Together we can make our communities better for all.
Okay- so maybe not quite “cities”…. Cope, Anton and Idalia are technically listed as “villages”
I happened to land in Cope in a quirky twist of fate… You see, many years ago, we bought a café sight unseen on a handshake at a football game in Denver. That’s another story.
Cope had a population of 97. We helped grow it to 101.
Now, if you’ve ever lived in a very small rural community, you KNOW that revenue is hard to generate and so is entertainment.
We had the bright idea of starting “Café Racing”one summer. We had a little go- cart, and so did another family in Anton (pop 20) and another in Idalia (pop 115 +/- at the time)
So, we decided that to drum up business for each café in our towns,we would race around the café in Cope one weekend, and the other towns the following weeks… and then repeat. ~you could call it ‘Redneck Revenue’~
It only lasted a few months, but it was fun and did what it was supposed to do.
~Yes~ our little homemade go carts were wildly unsafe… kids strapped in with old back braces screwed to plywood and borrowed bike helmets…. But we all made it safely and the kids still talk about that summer.
Café Racing was a lesson in cooperation and collaboration with other towns. It was the start of “could be’s” Which led to other adventures….and bright ideas
Now I am using over 25 years of gained knowledge to help others get things started in their communities and learn to connect with neighboring towns.
A story of US. Of America. Of Small Business. Of Dreams. Of Passion. Of love of craft.
People who love their craft, live it every day.
I just saw this video today, and I was simply moved. Not by the memories of my Grammy who was a noted seamstress in San Francisco, nor because I am also a creative type.
But because this grand lady, Chris Ellsberg, lives and loves her craft of pattern making. By ‘craft’ I do NOT mean ‘crafting’… It’s more like craftsmanship, or trade.
You see, Chris is a pattern maker. One of the last the United States. It is an old trade. One that is difficult to master.
In her 80’s now, Chris strutted into Raleigh Denim Workshop and volun-told the owners, Victor & Sara, that she was going to work there. (Love her Moxie!!) For FREE, until they could afford to pay her.
She has been passing on her knowledge and love of craft to a new generation. It is thrilling to watch their story unfold.
I would love to meet them all! It sounds like they are a ‘family’ working at Raleigh Denim Workshop.
Helping each other to hold fast the dreams.
I am inspired. This story has so many lessons we can all learn from. Lessons about community, giving, teaching and inspiring. Of holding on and letting go.
It is much, much more than just a story of an old woman and a young couple.