A Keystone institution turns 50 this year

By Leslie Silverman


The Indians gift shop in Keystone celebrates its 50th year as a family-run business.

The current owners — Kathy Uhrig and her husband, Bruce — bought the business 20 years ago when Kathy’s dad retired.

“I wasn’t sure after my dad retired what would happen,” Uhrig said. “I had very young children at the time. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to work full time. But then my husband and I decided to buy it.”

The couple kept up the family tradition began by Kathy’s parents, Eugene and Lucille Jelliffe, in 1970.

It wasn’t until Uhrig’s husband retired that they were able to commit to buying the store and manage the time that it required.

“We kind of split it up days,” Uhrig said. “I worked mornings he worked evenings so the children weren’t home alone.”

Being a family run business helps make the store run more efficiently.

“I’m sure some families couldn’t do it working together so closely, but ours is so family-oriented and everyone gets along so well that it just flows so smoothly for us,” Uhrig said. “The continuity and the flow of it is really nice. We really super stress here good service and you can only do that because you work with people and they’ve been here so long they get to the point that everything comes naturally. They love the store.”

The store itself has gone through changes since it was first built in 1950.

“It’s changed a little bit over the years,” Uhrig said. “My dad added on a big store room up top. We added on the whole front and side. There used to be a big alley. We pushed that out and we opened up the big corner in back. We brought the stairs in the back of the building.”

Having three generations of family working in the business does have its challenges.

“Our summers are so tied up we do not get to participate in many family events in the summer,” Uhrig said. “It’s kind of stressful at times. We try to break it up. Some of us get to go. If we have a family reunion every other year up by Sturgis part of us get to go during the day part of us get to go in the evening.”

Uhrig has seen Keystone change significantly in the last five decades.

“There’s been a huge amount,” she said. “There was the flood in 1972, there’s been three major fires in town, two in the ’80’s and one across the street in 2003 which probably took 10 years off my life. That was a scary night.”

The families that used to run businesses in Keystone have all came and went.

“Everyone kind of knew each other,” Uhrig said. “People come and go more now. There were a lot of really long-term owners for a long time and they’ve all kind of passed away.” 

Uhrig also sees changes in the job market.

“We used to have a ton of high school kids applying for jobs,” she said. “We hardly get any high school kids anymore.”

The Indians looks to employ locals to help direct and inform tourists.

“The education part is a big part of our job,” Uhrig said. “We’re very strong into Indian art. So if people are looking at pottery or jewelry or sand paintings we help them learn about that. It’s interesting to them to know where it came from, what type of turquoise is in a piece, who made a piece of pottery or the history of how it’s made.”

Uhrig also notes there’s been a steady growth in tourism for the town since the 1970s.

“The amount of people coming,” she said. “As we’ve grown our business the amount of people we see in the summer it’s just crazy.”

The Indians has served many memorable customers over the years from celebrities to repeat customers.

“We literally meet people from all over the entire world,” Uhrig said. “You never know who’s going to walk in. We have a core group of people that every time they’re in the Black Hills they shop this store specifically. That makes us feel really good. The people that come in is what really makes our store.” 

Uhrig is thrilled to see her children taking an interest in the store.

“It’ll continue on,” she said. “They all know the history of all the things my dad was so adamant and so happy about with the store. The core values and pure strengths of our business will continue on and that’s really nice.”