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~
Masonville, Colorado~ a beautiful, picturesque little (un-incorporated) micro sized, unincorporated town (wide spot in the road) has all eight of the assets that every community shares. The fact that there really in no ‘town’ per-se, is not a problem. A skip away from Estes Park, Loveland and Ft Collins– it is still a slice of the wild west and feels like it is miles and miles from anywhere. (which it kinda is- an average of 30 miles to ‘anywhere’)
Masonville easily covers all the assets: Architecture, Art/Culture, Cuisine, Customs, Commerce, Geography, History and People.
“Every things fits into one of these categories, and every town- even a ghost town- has a story to tell about each one” – Kansas Sample Foundation
Here’s my ‘story’ on each element;
Geography– Masonville was originally platted in the Buckhorn Canyon following a small discovery of Gold. It is surrounded by the stunning foothills and rolling meadows leading up to Estes Park and the Buckhorn, Redstone and Big Thompson creeks. It is an area considered to be part of the beginning of the “Front Range”. Gold, Silver, Tungsten, Copper and Nickel have been found there along with a host of other lesser ores and small gemstones.
The winding roads leading into Masonville make it a popular destination for motorcyclists and bicyclists alike.
Art/Culture A part of Masonville holds a mini western ‘town’ and many sculptures and paintings. In part they tell a story about the West that Was and in part just for whimsy.
Commerce For a town with only TWO businesses, it sure is a busy place!!! The Masonville Mercantile is an incredible little year round Emporium that serves many markets- everything from unique gifts to the wedding and historical re-enactment markets. Their milliner even
makes award winning hats for the ladies at the Kentucky Derby. The Nostalgic West Leather Shop is a ‘go to’ shopping hot spot for all things leather. Dusters, cowboy hats, quality bike leathers (we have some from there!) gloves, gifts and accessories.
Cuisine – While there are no traditional food places to eat at in Masonville, each year there are a number of events from farmers markets to BBQ’s that draw huge crowds. – A great way to meet new people and enjoy the beauty of the area. (and there’s always the snacks at the Mercantile!)
People – Many of the local residents of the Masonville area have roots that run very deep. Members of the Milnor family has been in the area since the late 1800s.
Each year tourists from all over the world visit Masonville too. I have met people from England, Scotland and Australia while hanging out in Masonville!
Architecture – The Mercantile and the Hotel (now privately owned) were originally built closer to Buckhorn creek, but later moved to where they currently are. The store has been added onto over the years. But the authenticity of the wild west remains. Across from the store, is a small outdoor chapel and ‘wild west town’. Much of it was built with reclaimed lumber from original buildings to the area. Read here for some history on the Masonville store. Down the street, the old school is still there and has been turned into a private residence, as has the hotel.
History- Named for James R Mason, Masonville itself was originally platted in the 1890’s, though there were already families living in the area at that time. The Kitchens, Milner’s and Sheldon’s to name but a few. – The local history is rich with stories of cattle rustlers and mountain men, pioneers and tourists. And the life story of Cal Carter, Masonville’s last gold miner is quite extraordinary.
Customs- Where to start?? Many years ago the mercantile hosted the Masonville Mercantile Ball at the holidays. I am not sure if they still do, as we have been gone from the area a few years now and I have only been back in the summers.
But I do know that Masonville plays host to a number of Steam Punk, Wedding, SASS, bike runs, Sunday-go-to-meeting, BBQs, Farmers markets and more.
These are a continuance of the customs from olden days when people congregated at the local store for fellowship, to hear the news and get entertainment.
Stay tuned for more Kate’s 8 towns!
Katy is a speaker for rural and small communities and small business as well as a columnist for AgWeek. www.taitandkate.com for more information
I just came back from a whirlwind trip through parts of California. Most of my jaunts out there are like that.(I grew up there) Have to squeeze them in between calves and crops, you know!
While I was there I treated myself to a morning stop in Lincoln. This gem is +/- about 30 miles North East of Sacramento on Hwy 65.
“Downtown is the heartbeat of a community”
At the turn of the 1900’s Lincoln was a “boom town”. I would imagine it began it’s decline in the 1970’s or so. Back in the 80’s I bought my horse hay at
the feed store on the corner and the standing joke was that Lincoln had to “borrow” its Saturday night police from Marysville.
Over the years Lincoln has grown. And grown. And Grown. OUTSIDE of the city border. Downtown became sadly neglected. Building were run down. Store fronts empty.
About a dozen years ago the good people of Lincoln- many of them “old timers” came together to revitalize the old section. Building were revamped, they enticed people to come and see the possibilities and did some creative wheeling and dealing to get the storefronts filled. Here’s a great video on it:
Several years ago a friend of mine asked if I had been to Lincoln lately, and I said Not in years, nuthin’ there! So she cheerfully informed that there was indeed plenty there.
Everything from food and antiques to a fab quilt shop. -All things to pique my interest.
I found much to like and did some shopping 🙂 much to hubby chagrin.
Fast forward another few years. This trip I had time to spend the entire morning and early afternoon. So, my morning was spent having coffee with my son at a sidewalk café and walking all over Old Town. We had a wonderful time exploring and visiting with shop owners! Everybody was so friendly and helpful. Our only bummer was that we were there before the museum opened, and by the time it was, we were already around the corner at Kim’s Café having late ‘brunch’ (an outstanding café with heaping plates of down home cookin’.)with other family in the area.
Lincoln boasts a number of eateries, antique stores, boutiques, thrift shops, wineries, brewpubs, gardening/gift shops and more. It is quite the bustling area, offering something for everybody. Even my son was practically giddy when he found a shop that interested him.
Nearly every single store has outdoor seating and all have wonderful signage designed to attract attention. Several of the buildings have beautiful murals on them. Even the lone ‘box’ store is in keeping with the Old Town vibe.
~ The seating is amazing. Just by sitting down outside the coffee shop, people TALKED as they went by! And when People talk, Community happens.~
“Honoring the past while embracing the future”
Lincoln also hosts many events to draw people and have a good times- Everything from antique car shows to food truck extravaganzas and in between.
When you’re not busy eating, visiting or shopping in one of the great shops, take a little time and drive around the ‘heart’ of Lincoln and its neighborhoods. The architecture in amazing.
A stop in at the Lincoln Area Chamber was on my way around town and I had a wonderful visit with Tom Cosgrove, Chamber director. We had a few minutes to chat about the creativity involved with attracting businesses back to Downtown, and how rosy the future looks.
Rebuilding Lincoln wasn’t (and still isn’t) all sunshine and rainbows. It took loads of grit, outside the box creative thinking, vision , dreams, browbeating and hope.
Success feeds on success. Each small step lead to the next one and each one was progressively better and bigger. The energy in this beautiful town is incredible.
I will definitely be back again. Hopefully sooner rather than later!
Art, Architecture, Geography, Commerce, People, History, Customs and Cuisine– Yep! Covered ALL of “Kate’s 8” items that all communities begin with.
Katy is part of Tait&Kate– rural and small community speaker and advocate. TaitandKate can help your community fill your empty store fronts with outside the box strategies and build community from the inside out.
Want to book us for your next meeting or conference? email us at email@example.com