Trading places

Ron Burtz
While he says he hated to sell the building, Custer businessman Phil Lampert says “it’s time for a new generation to take over.”
The building in question is at 506 Mt. Rushmore Road, which has been the home of Lampert’s A Walk in the Woods store and Custer County Candy Co. for the last few years. 
Lampert recently sold the building to Tommy and Krystal Hegerfeld, owners of Custer Wolf Food and Drink. Plans are to move Custer Wolf from its current location at 607 Mt. Rushmore Road to the west side of the building where the candy store previously operated. Work has already begun on renovating the back part of the building, formerly the home of The Backwoods gallery. The candy shop is now closed for its move across the street diagonally to the space formerly occupied by Jim Meyer’s Edward Jones office. 
With all this shuffling of spaces going on, Lampert is quick to say A Walk in the Woods isn’t going anywhere and will continue as a tenant in the building. 
“I’m excited for them,” said Lampert of the building’s new owners, but he admits the sale is bittersweet.
Lampert has a long history with the property which he purchased in March of 2004 and renovated into the striking and attractive landmark it is today. 
The building at one point was a gas station. Lampert says the fuel pumps were located in the current courtyard where his huge metal horse sculptures sit today. He says the candy shop part of the building had a two car service bay. Later it was a Coast-to-Coast hardware store and at one time the upstairs was leased by the U.S. Forest Service for office space. 
“I had the building redesigned and put on the brick facade,” said Lampert, who admits the structure, which had sat vacant for a number of years, was “kind of an eyesore.” He also added on to the southwest corner of the building and added a fire escape exit for the upstairs. 
That project, said Lampert, was the start of a revitalization of Custer’s downtown district and several other businesses began to follow his example and upgrade their buildings as well.
Krystal Hegerfeld, who is acting as the general contractor on the remodeling of the new Wolf location, was scraping the word “gallery” off the west windows of the building when I caught up with her on Friday. She had just finished giving a coat of epoxy to the floor of the new kitchen which will be located on the south side of the building. 
Noting that the kitchen is “kind of the pride and joy of a restaurant,” Hegerfeld says she is excited that the space is about three times the size of the current kitchen up the street. 
Hegerfeld says most of the plumbing is done at this point and when the candy shop is totally moved out they will go to work opening an eight-foot hole between that space and the old Backwoods location to make “one big room.” The front part of the building will be the main dining room and the middle part will be both dining room and lounge. The side entrance will be dubbed the “Wolf Den entrance,” according to Hegerfeld.
She says she is also excited about the courtyard area which will be used for outdoor dining space during the peak season. The horses have been sold to a collector and are to be moved to make way for dining tables, games and a fire table.  
Acknowledging she’s under a “little bit of a time crunch” to get the remodeling done, Hegerfeld says she hopes to open in the new location in mid-March. The restaurant will stay open at its current location through Restaurant Week, Feb. 26-29 and then will close to begin the move. She says the plan is for the restaurant to be open year-round except for a couple of weeks in January as is the current schedule.
The Hegerfelds bought the former Bitter Esters restaurant assets in 2016, but have had this move in mind as part of their five- year plan. 
Although that plan was not widely known, locals were given a clue to the move about 18 months ago when large posters went up in the windows of The Backwoods bearing a picture of a wolf and proclaiming “The future is coming.” 
Those posters were put up by A Walk In the Woods operating partner Koko Ward, who also happens to be Krystal Hegerfeld’s mother. 
The space soon to be vacated by The Wolf will become the new home of Maria’s Mexican which has been operating out of a food truck parked next to the VFW during the summer months for several years. Owner Maria Lyndoe of Pringle says she hopes to have her new restaurant open by April and hopes to keep it open year-round. 
Meanwhile, another downtown food and beverage establishment also changed hands last week. Calamity Jane Coffee Shop was purchased by Rick and Sheila Carter from previous owners Deb Wallenberg and Jim Understock Jan. 31. 
Sheila said the couple plans to reopen the business the first weekend in April. They plan to keep the Calamity Jane name, but will call the business Calamity Jane Coffee Shop and Grill. 
They will also keep the current breakfast sandwiches previously offered by the shop but over the next few weeks they plan to go to work moving and expanding the kitchen area to make room for a grill and fryer to be able to add lunches and dinner. 
They also plan to apply for a wine license to be able to bring that back. 
Carter said the remodeling will also bring the shop’s restroom up to code for handicapped users. 
“We hope to operate seven days a week,” said Carter, “and we want to do a late-night grill until 11.”

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