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~
Trunk or Treat is really catching on. This is where folks line their cars up, decorate the trunks and the little people walk around on Halloween getting their candy in one place. One street. One part of one street.
Now I’m not against the concept. I see it’s merits is places like San Francisco, New York City and the like, where many folks may live in high rises or such. I can also see how it makes parents feel safer if they live in a ‘bad part of town’. Or the ease of just stopping in the parking lot at your kids school. And very micro towns- this nay be a good way for everyone to get together in the evening.
But mostly I see it as the nail on the coffin, so to speak, for neighborhoods.
I just caught a local interview on the news and the young mother said she is glad it is in the school parking lot because she “recognizes other parents and children”. To me that implies that while she recognizes them, she doesn’t know them. It also implies that there is no value to her in knowing the neighbors on any level.
I am old enough to remember when everyone went door to door. Parents visited with each other on sidewalks as we ran up to “trick or treat”- Parents also made it a point to introduce themselves any new or unknown neighbors, as well as inviting them to upcoming neighborhood events and shindigs.
My own kids went house to house. We went back and forth between country and city living- so some years we drove the kids into ‘town’ (we were 3 miles from the nearest neighbor and 16 to town) so they could go with their school chums… all of a hundred folks lived ‘in town’.
Last year I was giving a talk on community involvement in a local small town, right before Halloween. The City Auditor stated she was taking her children the next town over for trunk or treat. Why? Because there were new neighbors on the corner she didn’t know and was afraid to let her kids go up by themselves. So- my first question back was WHY haven’t you already introduced yourself? followed by Why not go up with them??? She chose to take her children 12 miles away to the town with under a hundred people from her own with nearly 500- It kinda baffles me.
Way to go- making your new community member feel unwelcome right out of the gate.
In a rural or small town setting Trunk or Treat also takes away from the joy of the home bound who have prepared for days for little ghosts and goblins and princesses and unicorns to come to their door. Many of the older folks know every family around, whose kids have allergies, whose like nut rolls and whose love candy corn and make individual bags for them. I know Mildred (in her 90s) would have been desolate if the kids hadn’t made an appearance- She’d been known for decades in the neighborhood.
Imagine how you would feel if you went all out, quite possibly hoarding bits of your fixed income so you could have treats for the kiddies, to have no one show up. That would probably be disheartening. And what of the new family? Don’t you think that attitude by your new town would keep person or family from participating in other ‘community’ things during the year?
Trick or Treating is almost a rite of passage. It is tradition. It is neighbors being neighborly. – (And trying to out do each other!)
It is community.
It’s OK to do both- To Trunk or Treat at a location, but try to be neighborly too. You don’t have to cover blocks… but it would be nice to knock on your neighbors door and say “Trick or Treat” or “Welcome to the neighborhood”
We went to a good Eye-Tali-an-o wedding last week down in Denver.
All the players were there… “The Don” ,”Cha-Cha” the wise guys and all the rest. Polyester in abundance right along with chest hair and chains, big hair and high heels.
But what stood out the most, was The Don’s mother-in-law…. In her sensible shoes.
I was immediately reminded of all the old ladies that used to sit on their stoops and watch kids play in the street. She reminded me of MY grandmother. Never without her sensible shoes. And all the times she chatted with ‘The Ladies” – Comparing olive oils and pedigrees, transgressions and recipes, children and husbands and so on. All dressed alike- all in sensible shoes.
She reminded me of all the ladies riding the bus to the market in San Francisco- shopping bags tucked neatly into handbags or under their arms, housedresses and sensible shoes for walking. She reminded me of garlic and gravy (that’s-a what we call spago sauce) and crusty bread and cannoli.
She reminded me of when we lived in North Carolina and went to a Columbus Day Celebration in downtown Fayetteville.
There standing all her glory on street corner was an elderly Italian lady in her green (the EXACT same shade as the flag!) housedress, matching handbag and jaunty little hat proudly holding a full size Italian Flag waving gently in the wind. In her sensible shoes….
A toast to The Don’s mother-in-law!
I miss my Grammy and was happy for the memories
This fall my husbands business was a sponsor of the Hammer Down Big Rig Truck Show in Mandan, North Dakota.
What started as a get together of friends to tell tall tales and do ‘burn outs’ in the shop parking lot, morphed into this brand new annual event. A neat fact- All grass roots! There were no major sponsors- just all the ‘guys’ pitching in.
It was beautiful fall day for ND- 90 degrees! And far more trucks than expected showed up! By the end of the week it was announced they had 75 committed and ended up with just under 100.
~ I personally think they came for the Truck Races~ that’s right.. These folks took their Big Rigs on the dirt circle track and went for it…
Can you hear the song in your head???
It was a dark of the moon… on the sixth of June …and a Kenworth pulling logs… cab over Pete… with a refer on…and a Jimmy haulin’ hogs… we was headed for bear on I-1-0…about a mile outta Shakey Town…I says Pig Pen, this here’s the Rubber Duck… and I’m about to put the hammer down. ~Convoy~ by CW McCall
This turned out to be a great event! Young and old alike had a great time reminiscing about “way back when I was hauling…” and telling tall tales about close calls and impossible feats.
Lessons? Of course there lessons… Never underestimate your audience and Always be prepared for anything.
See ya there next year!
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
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.