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
And small town bars.
We all know those jokes- “A guy walks into a bar……………..”
Many years ago we moved out to the sandhills of eastern Colorado. We had bought a café sight unseen on a hand shake at a football game in Denver. Yes- true story.
After weeks of working double shifts I decided I needed a drink. So off I went to our nearest town with a bar- Yuma- 40+ miles away.
Our town was D.R.Y….
So, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, I walked into the bar. ALONE…and sat down at the end. The quintessential bartender is leaning on it at the other end yapping it up with the ‘regulars’. They all look a little startled.
Him: What can I get you?
Me: A B-52
Him: Ohhh- Akron has an airstrip… anything else?
Me: okay- How about a Bulldog?
Him: Mason there (points at guy) has dogs for sale
Me: How about a beer?
….Brings me a bottle…
ME: in a glass….
Him: It IS in a glass!
And then the frosting on the cake……
Him: WHO are you here with?????
And that is when I learned that well bred ladies do NOT go to the bar ‘unattended’ out there unless ….. Unless what??
Maybe I should have had him explain it to me? heehee
On another occasion we needed some wine to go with a harvest dinner for a private party- So I ran to the beer store in Joes looking for some- Fully expecting some KJ or Hogue or Napa Valley or something reasonable…
As I’m looking around, the very nice lady asks if she can help me find anything in particular…. I tell her we’re looking for a wine that pairs well with steak and seafood…
She proudly directs me to the far wall where they have EVERY FLAVOR of
Not quite what I was thinking… but what do you say in the face of such pride???
“We’ll take a DOZEN of those….”
BTW- Boone’s has over 25 flavors…
Of which I am sure I have tried nearly all at some point….
But Boone’s and Strawberry Pop-tarts is another story
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.
That’s what a seamstress/creative and a world class coffee roaster have in common.
“When people talk, community happens” –Becky McCray
(And let me tell you…. Jo and I can TALK!!)
We are a community. A community of entrepreneurs. A community of women. A community of small town advocates. A community of creatives . A community of givers and do-ers~It only takes two to be part of a ‘community’
~The funny thing about our “community” is that we don’t even live in the same town. Not even the same part of the state!~
I met Jo Kahlifa , at a local Pride of Dakota event a number of years ago. We instantly became friends and have since done a number of exciting things jointly both personally and with our businesses. ( check out MoJo Roast and read about her and the coffees)
The fact that we are a “community” was driven home this past week when we attended an OTA conference. (NorthDakOTA,MinnesOTA,SouthDakOTA) Part of the purpose was to bring together creatives from towns across a tri-state area to help transform where we live into great , re-envisioned communities. Places where people once again gather and talk to each other instead of about each other. Communities where roots are put down and dreams are realized.
Community matters. In so many ways. And Community is not always where you live. Often it is what you do.
We all talk about ‘Small Town’ customer service, and the ways it is supposed to help us in business. It’s great to know everybody. But what about the ones you don’t know? How are you really treating them?
Let’s talk about the ways Small Town customer service doesn’t help. I have been blessed to have both lived and traveled all across this great nation of ours, so I speak from experience. Hear me out.
I know plenty of small town people who will NOT talk to outsiders and are either openly hostile or blatantly rude to unknowns. .
~ When YOU act like WE don’t matter *by ‘WE’ I mean anyone Not included in the best names in town. I also mean travelers and passersby and people generally not from your town. We take our money elsewhere.
In a town not too far from us there is a Rexall. The ladies that run it can actually go through an entire transaction without ever uttering a word to you. Not so much as a “Hello”, or a “Drop dead”. Really. But you let someone else of so called social standing come through the door, and they will fawn all over them and chat up a storm. I can name a dozen people off the top who go an extra 26 miles to the next town over because they are friendly at the Rexall there. I can name even more who take their money to ‘the city’.
Pay attention: Our $$$$$ is just as green as theirs!
~When you don’t give us the time of day We remember. We have memories like elephants. We came to your communities for a better life. Or maybe family brought us here. Or jobs. Whatever the reason, we are among you. Many of us are here to stay whether you like it or not.
When we come into your cafes, stores, gas stations etc- give us the same courtesies you give everyone else. Come around and check on us while we’re dining. Don’t just leave us
to sit there while we watch you schmooze the five coffee drinkers you already know. Say “Hello” or “How you doin'” when we pop in for gas or grub.
By ignoring us, you hurt yourself in more ways than you can imagine.
We will take our money elsewhere
When you say something stupid we remember. And we will probably take it to social media, or blog about it. And word will get around.
I was at the market in a town near us just yesterday. I only needed some milk, but noticed there was a sale, so I stocked up on a few things. Upon checking out, the cashier bellowed (yes! bellowed in his outdoor voice) “Gawd! I hope you’re not doing this for W.I.C, and just stocking up instead. I hate WIC”” The shame of it!! (btw- cash) Nothing quite like having all eyes on you. In no way should it have mattered if it is WIC, cash, check, charge or food stamps. That is NOT your concern to shout it to the world.
Your job as owner is to make it as pleasant of an shopping experience as it can be. And you employees need to made to understand that THEY ARE YOUR REPRESENTITIVES and had better well act like it.
When things like this happen, and not just to me, we take our money elsewhere.
If we’re going to be treated like that, we’d just as soon go the city where at least we can get some variety while being treated like crud.
~ Do you want to know how this hurts you? It hurts your pocketbook. Trust me, a small business can’t last forever on the income from a handful of preferred customers. When you are wondering WHY you are not making a decent living or where your customers are, remember this: WE took our money to anther business.
It hurts your groups that rely on volunteers. When you treat us like we don’t matter, or that you could care less, we have zero desire to volunteer for great causes because of it. I can name plenty of towns that cry they can’t get help with anything, but persist in treating everyone outside their group like crud.
We don’t donate our hard earned money to your causes. They may be really worthy events or local charities. But we won’t budge a dime when you have the gall to hold your hand out after not even speaking to us ever at the gas station.
We Leave. Pretty simple. And we take our $$$$ with us. Our disposable incomes that we could have spent with you, and our kids out the schools, and our property tax, and so on.
The reoccurring theme here is simple. Be nice to one and all. Not just some. And you will reap the rewards of repeat businsess and new people as well because we WILL tell our friends “Hey! Did you know So and so is the best around???”
I personally, planned all of my road trips from Denver to California around a stop over in Austin, Nevada. For 20 years! Why? Every business in this little bitty town on Hwy 50 has Customer Service down to a “T” ! There was never a time when I was not made to feel welcome.
(Property owners name withheld on request)
On occasion I drive by “Betty’s” place NE of Washburn.
Every time I think two things immediately.
1) WOW! I want to stay there!
2) WOW! The income potential.
It really is quite a marvelous place for her family to get away to. These converted grain bins are actually sleeping rooms (2 are storage) and the Quonset has a livingroom, bathroom and kitchen. ~The family meets up here for a week or so every year. There are no other buildings on their land.
I often think what a simple concept! Primitive camping with nature right at your fingertips- but ‘town’ right down the road. Or a great for seasonal Craft selling or farm market. The novelty of the painted buildings would make me stop in a second driving by!
We live in a very rural community. What a draw this could be for any small community! Think of the possibilities. Quick weekend get-aways, retreats, family reunions, bird watching, star gazing etc.
It’s quirky, fun, interesting and draws you in. It immerses you in the country in a way that being in a hotel can’t.
WHO would be your customers? and WHY are they your costumers?
Well, me for one. As someone who frequently traveled cross country with the boys, a place to run and shout in the country would have been my first stop! Photographers, wild life viewers, hunters, crafters, history buffs, picnickers, day campers – all manner of people.
Now I know, most of us have seen great converted grain bin ‘houses’ or farm dwellings used for major events. But this, on a most base level has oooodles of easily do-able possibilities without as much upfront capital. Just a little sweat and imagination.
Want windows? Scavenge some from old buildings. Want to add a porch? Again, use salvaged lumber or bricks.
You are only limited by your imagination.
As a Primitive experience, you wouldn’t need to provide all manner of luxuries. Primitive means just that. A bed. Maybe an outdoor BBQ or fire pit. If you wanted to- a solar shower and out-house or inciner-loo would do. You could easily offer a booklet detailing the best nearby places for scenery, bird watching, great food, places of interest and local history. It would be easy enough to partner with the local café or bakery to provide boxed lunches/dinners or baked goods.
Also as a primitive experience, you may not be as subject to the same stringent standards as a ‘hotel’ would be. (Definitely something to check on, though)
Remember- Your great grain bins or other buildings don’t have to be on a farm! You can be on the edge of town, or by the park, or maybe you have an extra large lot… Again- imagination.
Most states have an Agri-Tourism department. They may provide property signage, can help you decide what type of insurance is best. (Many farm policies already have a rider for ‘guests’) and other aspects of your new business.
Agri-Tourism is a very sustainable, viable income. The USDA also has grants and low cost loans available. Many communities have Micro-loan programs to help you on your way. You can also list for FREE you great Agri-tourism place on many sites such as : http://www.agritourismworld.com/ that let’s you list by state.
Here are some great links to get you started: