Now hiring in Keystone

By: 
Leslie Silverman

Businesses in Keystone have begun hiring for the 2021 summer tourist season.

Jane’s Boardwalk Pizza is looking for 10 part time workers to begin around mid May, according to Denise Jensen.

“It is difficult to find good, reliable employees because of the small pool of workers from the local area,” she said.

Jensen is hiring cooks, food prep employees and customer service workers for her adjacent clothing kiosk.

Jim Sellars, who manages both the Ramada and Baymont hotels, is looking for about 50 employees. He too, finds the hiring process to be a challenge.

“We’ve always had issues out here with the small population,” he said.

Sellars has previously relied on J1 and H2B workers to fill the gap of a shortage of local workers.

For Sellars, 2021 staffing “will be a challenge, especially without the H2B workers.” And, while he’s hopeful that COVID-19 restrictions might ease he notes, “it is still up in the air,” as to whether the J1 workers and the H2B workers will be allowed to come into the country to work.

But he’s confident that “as always, we will make it work.”

Clay King, owner of The National Presidential Wax Museum, Grapes and Grinds Coffee Shop and Wine Bar and Holy Terror Mini Golf is hiring 25 seasonal employees, including baristas, wine tasting associates, museum ticket clerks and golf ticket shack attendants.

“I’ve never had too much trouble hiring enough local workers to need to tap into sponsoring J1 workers myself,” King said. “I will occasionally hire J1s looking for another job in addition to their primary job from their sponsor. Even though I don’t rely on J1s very much, any shortage of J1 workers in the Black Hills still impacts me dramatically because any shortage of staff in the Black Hills, whether international or local, drives up competition for available workers.”

Like most business owners, King starts to hire for the summer season in the latter part of the winter.

“One challenge I face is learning to trust the flow of the hiring process,” he said. “By this I mean that despite your best efforts to line up staff early in the year, many local folks simply don’t start the process of job hunting until it’s uncomfortably close — for me at least — to the beginning of the summer tourist season.”

And while King always finds enough staff to give his patrons excellent customer service, he admits, the process can be daunting.

“Every year it seems there’s always a moment where I panic and think that there’s no way I’ll find enough staff to run all three businesses; however, in the end, it has always worked out and I’ve been able to find the staff I need to keep the doors open and our customer service standards high,” he said.

Both King and Jensen find that staffing shortages can impact their business hours.

“Staffing has a huge impact on our ability to service our customers and to maintain the hours we would like to be open,” says Jensen.

King finds that once schools reopen, keeping his businesses open can be tricky.

“Last year we did end up closing Grapes and Grinds earlier in the afternoon in the month of September because staffing becomes more difficult once high school is back in session,” he said.

Sellars is optimistic about the 2021 tourist season.

“All indications are that it will be another good season,” he said.

Tourism statistics from the 2020 season indicate that 49,500 jobs are supported through the South Dakota tourism industry, generating $276,000,000 in revenue statewide.

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