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.
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
(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:
Cottage food laws in North Dakota need to be updated. – Oh wait… ND doesn’t have a bonafide Cottage Food Law~
Ours are not the most restrictive, but they don’t help much in a predominately rural state.
~Currently we can sell baked goods, jams and jellies, lefse, candies and similar items at Farmers Markets, Country Fairs and Non-profit or charitable events. ~
We cannot (not supposed to) sell at Craft shows, at for profit events, food festivals, online or out of our homes. (interesting- we make it at home, but can’t sell it from our home!)
~I propose the following changes: Allow us to sell from home, sell at shows, sell to retail establishments- as long as they are labeled as such, allow in-state online sales (not to exceed 50,000$ a year) ~
Also I would suggest mandatory insurance of some amount, and have to register as a business (can be done online for a very nominal fee that way you can at least be tracked down if need be)
Why? you ask….
#1 Because North Dakota is a predominately rural state. In spite of big oil and big money, the rest of the state is still the same. It is still mainly small towns and sparse population. Not every one can drive to ‘town’ (meaning the big 8) for a job, and not every small town can employ everybody. And not everybody even lives near a town! (we’re 17 to the nearest village)
#2 It will make a difference. It would bring in more tax money to rural,small and outlying communities. A much needed income stream! It will help us, help ourselves. It can get people off assistance. It can make a difference between keeping a roof over your head, or not. It can help an entrepreneur take those first steps. It can spark hope in a town that may think it’s days are done. It can promote tourism and Agri-tourism. It can do many things for us.
** I can actually give a hundred good reasons, but for sake of space, I won’t**
I also don’t think we need an inspection either. Standard food service rules should be applied and followed along with common sense. Most people who sell at farmers markets, bazaar’s etc have cleaner homes than most restaurants you eat in. Really.
~What about the Nay Sayers? and the “It’s not Fair!” people?…. What about them? No is just a word. And Life isn’t fair. I totally understand where the lady who busted her chops to open a traditional bakery,and spent tons of time and money to do so may be miffed. But realistically it’s apples and oranges. Cookies and Jams are not Kuchen, Cream Puffs or other premium egg or custard based delicacies. The home baker is not a threat to commercial businesses. We are an option.
Arizona allows resale of Home Baked Goods to coffee shops, cafe’s etc as long as they are properly labeled. They also allow for in state internet sales.
Texas has created over ONE THOUSAND NEW JOBS this year through cottage food laws! Think about the tax revenue that brings in! And… in all 25 counties, Not 1 complaint has been filed against any home baker!
California and Utah have very generous CFL’s.
So- start shouting it from your roof tops! Tell your friends, pester your local legislators and city governments to get on the band wagon.