BELLE FOURCHE | With the impending closure of Belle Fourche's Shopko Hometown store at the forefront of small-town consumer concerns, other longtime local businesses are betting on a strong future with young, fresh ownership taking over.
A number of Belle Fourche businesses changing hands in recent months include, Wells Plumbing & Farm Supplies, Dakota Lumber/Do It Best Hardware, and Belle Flowers, Gifts and Décor.
"Even with the closing of Shopko, we have a very vibrant business community in Belle Fourche," said Gary Wood, director of the Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce.
Wells Plumbing & Farm Supplies
General Manager Bill Jewett will celebrate his 13th anniversary with Wells next week, after noting the start of his fifth month as part-owner of the longtime Belle Fourche business.
Jewett partnered with Brian Hammerbeck and Pat Hall of Rapid City to buy Wells Plumbing from Allen Wells after the second-generation owner decided to retire.
Allen’s parents, Jack and Mary Ann Wells, founded Wells Plumbing about 70 years ago, Jewett said.
Wells Plumbing specializes in just about any household, commercial or plumbing and irrigation, culverts, rural water lines, septic systems and electrical needs over an expansive business area.
“We have customers from west of Gillette to east of Pierre and from North Dakota to Nebraska and up in Montana, so we have a wide customer range,” Jewett said.
The business employs four full-time and two part-time employees.
“We kept the same faces,” Jewett said. “When the customers come in, they didn’t even notice the change.”
Jack Wells, who will soon celebrate his 96th birthday, often stops by the shop for a visit. Jewett wants the founder of the business 70 years ago to like what he sees.
“Jack and Allen always stressed good customer service,” Jewett said. “We want to work hard to keep up that tradition.”
Nate Bowman has been hanging around Dakota Lumber since he was a youngster, and worked there on weekends and during the summer through high school.
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Now he and his wife, Raelyn, own the business, which has been in his family since his grandparents, Dick and Arlene, bought the lumber yard in 1979 at 18751 US-85, just north of the intersection with Highway 212 in north Belle Fourche.
His parents, Roger and Jean, eventually took over the business and then sold it to Nate and his wife when they decided to retire.
The change of ownership was finalized in January 2018. Roger still chips in with advice, Nate said, but the changeover has been seamless.
“Nothing’s really changed,” Nate said. “We kept all the employees that have been with us for a while.”
Is it exciting or scary to take over a family business?
“A little of both,” he said. “My parents and grandparents did it for 40 years.”
Belle Flowers, Gifts & Décor
This is a busy week for Belinda Christman at Belle Flowers, Gifts & Décor, at 619 State St. in downtown Belle Fourche.
Sunday is Mother’s Day, second only to Valentine’s Day in terms of sales for the floral business, but Christman, originally of Lemmon, brings years of floral and gift shop experience in Spearfish and at another shop in Belle Fourche to her shop, which she purchased from Diane Alcorn in a sale completed on Feb. 1.
Christman was working at Posy Palace, just down the street, and happened to drive by Belle Flowers one day.
“I checked with Diane to see if the shop was for sale. It was, and it just went from there,” Christman said.
Besides fresh floral arrangements, and delivering to Newell, Spearfish and Whitewood as well as Belle Fourche, Christman offers home décor and baby clothing gift items. She takes pride in a 10 percent military discount with both her and an employee honoring sons serving in the U.S. Air Force.
“Both of us have sons that have a military background, so that’s one of the things we want to put out there,” Christman said.
(Editor's Note: the above story has been changed to correct the names of Bill Jewett and Nate Bowman.)