Hill City being kept alive and vibrant by small businesses

By Jeff Smith

It was busy on the afternoon of Nov. 24 in downtown Hill City. The warm weather helped too as people could skip the lines and crowds of a bigger city.

Across the United States there were an estimated 108 million consumers reported shopping  or dining at local independently-owned businesses this past Saturday.

Small businesses kicked up their efforts to get people into their shops or restaurants for Small Business Saturday which was on Nov. 25.

Small Business Saturday also creates a desire for people to shop at small businesses throughout the year. Many towns across America would not be as successful without  small businesses. Over 50 percent of the businesses nationwide are small businesses. Hill City and Keystone are nearly full of small businesses.

Support is needed from both visitors and year-round community members.

Pat Wiederhold, owner of Granite Sports, said Small Business Saturday was great and lots of happy people were in the store.

“Hopefully, it was good for everybody,” Wiederhold said.

He also said the nice weather helps. Both Saturday and Sunday last week brought temperatures in the 50’s.

Lots of people were roaming around Hill City and there was a good mix of locals and tourists, according to Wiederhold.

Belczak said there was a lot of people from North Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming.

He said the store sees a little kick up during the holiday season too. Going forward, Granite Sports will be open every day with the exception of Christmas.

Pat Belczak, owner of Heart of the Hills Antiques, said it was a pretty good day. Her store had lots of specials and discounts. People who spent $20 or more were entered into a contest to win a $200 rocking chair. For every $10 someone spent there was a free gift for ladies. This special deal is also available throughout the holiday season.

Their firearms, collectibles and antiques come from all over the country.

“We’re very particular with what we get,” Belczak said.

She has been collecting items for 57 years. Nothing in the store has been ordered. It is all hand-picked by someone.

Her son, Joe, who owns the store with Belczak has collected for 40 years.

Heart of the Hills Antiques also recently moved to a new location. The business has been in Hill City for 12 years.

Belczak said the 1880 Train Holiday Express brings in people too.

There are only four days that have tickets available at different departures so far.

Holli Edwards, business development manager for the 1880 train, said tickets usually sell out every year.

“They’re selling out quickly compared to other years,” Edwards said.

Edwards said the Holiday Express becomes a tradition for more people every year too.

“More people come and they tell others. People’s groups grow each year,” Edwards said.

Lorena Freis, owner of Farmer’s Daughter, said small business keeps Hill City alive and vibrant. Farmer’s Daughter gave out a gift to those who spent more than $30.

She said people are so used to getting great deals at big box stores that they assume they can great deals at local businesses.

“It serves us well to get them what they want,” Freis said.

It’s also the beginning of the Christmas season and Freis said it’s good to make people laugh and to get them into the shopping spirit.

“Have fun with them,” she said.

Freis commented that this year was the best Small Business Saturday they have had. The Freis’ have owned the store for six years.

Sharon Goodman, co-owner of Doc & Alice, said a fair amount of people came into the store. She said in addition to clothing there is a lot of jewelry and shoes that people buy.

Goodman said there have been a few people that have said that they are shopping only at small business and local places for Christmas.

This Friday and Saturday Doc & Alice is supposed to have a Scandinavian-style event. Some clothes in that style will also be featured.