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
What can I say- I like cheese. The cheesier, the better. I am a sucker for it every time. Especially the ones that you have your head in the picture. Leaping tall fences, cutting off traffic, abruptly stopping the car… I am guilty of all.
Thankfully my sons were always game for another stop on our adventures.
I think my love of Roadside Kitch began in the early ’70s with a long trip to the east coast and my first sighting of an oversized Bobs BigBoy! Or maybe it was Burma Shave that grabbed me with their signs…”The monkey took one look at Jim and threw the peanut back at him“(Dixon, CA)
Roadside attractions became wildly popular all over the US in the 1930s when we began to “See the USA in our Chevrolets” and continued well into the 60s. – They were to grab your attention and get you off the road and into town.
The general intent was that if they got you to stop to see the worlds biggest ball of twine, then you’d probably stay for dinner, get gas (think “eat at Stuckey’s and get gas”) and maybe even stay the night or do a little shopping.
The idea is still the same today, except most roadside attractions are now in predominately rural areas.
And I still stop at them. I doubt I will ever be too old to enjoy the novelty of roadside attractions.
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.
Okay- it’s really more like the Kansas Sampler, but that doesn’t have the same ring as ‘Kate the Great’ does it?
“Kate’s 8” will actually be a regular feature on the towns I visit and what I see as their “8”
According to the Kansas Sampler Foundation, there are eight things every community has. No matter their size, large or small, they can all drum up their eight with a little creativity.
Once you identify your eight, begin building on them and see how many ways you get people to come to your town!
The eight are:
Art, Architecture, Geography, Commerce, People, History, Customs & Cuisine
How do YOU define each in your community?? Is your Art murals? Is it sculpture? Is it the garden layed out in the design of the Queen of England? -Use your imagination
Even if it’s only the Avon lady… it’s still commerce! And it counts. It’s a start. And obviously somebody believes.
What is your history? Do you have a museum? The only stone jail in the state? When was your community settled? A long tradition of ‘old school’ music? Find your own version of history and use it.
Cuisine is everything from Sunday church picnics to that fabulous smoked ham the neighbor makes. Maybe someone makes the best pies this side of the Mississippi. Maybe you have the BBQ joint.
People are everyone. You have people. That’s a start! Tell stories about them. Celebrate them!
Customs can be anything from the yearly Church Social to the community Christmas Tree. It can be past customs. (that way it can also double up as history) Did your town used to have something? Do you celebrate Ukrainian Easter or other ethnic holidays? What do you have?
Architecture– I love architecture. All Kinds! Old buildings (especially with vintage or art deco designs or signs… Oh, hey! That’s also Art!! Bonus!) , new buildings, churches, schools, barns, out houses etc… What do YOU have?
Geography is everything from the sweeping vistas of the prairies to the woodlands and in between. Every place has geography. Rivers, lakes, mountains and so on.
So, go on! Be creative. Involve everyone. Ask around. You’ll be amazed at how differently each person views ‘the eight’
“Kate’s 8” will be ongoing features of the “K-8” that I find in the towns I visit.
What’s in your town?
Need a speaker? Call us! We give talks on rural and small communities and business and how they can grow using just what is at hand as well as showcasing fabulous ideas that other towns have embraced and turned into huge wins. www.taitandkate.com We can also show you ways to get the C.A.V.E (citizens against virtually everything) people on board too.
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.