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Sarah and Jim Solano are the new owners of the Boondocks gas station, convenience store and diner. They plan to open the store later this summer.

Sarah Solano is a dreamer, always coming up with new ideas, and her latest, she said, occasionally leaves her "scared half to death."

About 2 1/2 weeks ago, as she and her husband, Jim, were traveling along U.S. Highway 385, they stopped at Boondocks, the 1950s- and '60s-themed park, then owned by Ron and Lisa Jorgenson. 

And Solano, office manager for the Deadwood Police Department, thought, "Wouldn't it be nice if we could get this?"

About a week later, she made "nice" come true, purchasing the gas station, convenience store and diner on the property, which was auctioned off June 30. The Jorgenson family is leaving the business, but not free of misgivings.

"I've got a sense of freedom now," Ron Jorgenson said, "but I've been so busy all my life, I don't know if I want that."

By contrast, the Solanos are about to get very busy with their new purchase.

"We didn't think we would actually get it, and we didn't have any plans," said Sarah Solano, who tried to call her husband during the auction but couldn't because there was no cell service. When she finally talked to him, he "took the news well."

The Solanos plan to open the convenience store by the time the Sturgis motorcycle rally begins, and then open the diner as soon as they can. But that might have to wait until next summer.

Auctioneer Martin Jurisch said the auction went well, with more than 200 people in attendance, and brisk selling, including the Solanos' purchase for around $100,000. 

"I was pleased with the buyers and their reception to the auction," Jurisch said. "We had some really good prices on a number of things, and it went extremely well for having a number of unusual items."

Ron Jorgenson wasn't as chipper.

"I still have some cars and other restaurant equipment" for sale, said Jorgenson, who plans to hold a second auction. "It was just so much to get through in a day."

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For instance, he still has historical pieces, such as a chair Elvis Presley sat in for a family portrait. 

"That's worth a lot of money," Jorgenson said.

He also suffered the disappointment that Boondocks may never be what it once was.

Ron, Lisa and their sons Aaron, 28, and Adam, 21, transformed Boondocks into an attraction that has gained national attention. The Jorgensons bought the original diner and the beginnings of a convenience store about 15 years ago.

After trying to retire since 2010, the 71-year-old Ron Jorgenson decided now is the right time.

His transition has been jarring. He is accustomed to working day-after-day putting up rides, taking them down, fixing asphalt, working on the cars and fixing the septic system.

But he and his wife have bought a recreational vehicle and a boat, with the hopes of buying a lake cottage in Minnesota. 

After announcing he was selling, Jorgenson said, he received at least 50 phone calls from people in the community wishing he wouldn't. 

"I wish for someone else's benefit that it would have stayed intact better, but (the new owners will) find out what they've got, and it will all come back together," Jorgenson said. "The Boondocks probably never will revive the way it was, but they'll make a go of it, and maybe it will."

The Solanos aren't the only owners of pieces of Boondocks. For instance, the Brownsville Volunteer Fire Department in Deadwood also made a purchase at the auction, spending about $115,000 on property for a building.

Sarah Solano's dreams don't come without a little fear, since she has never operated a restaurant. She and her husband are planning to run the business full time, just the two of them. 

"One day we wake up, and we're excited," she said, "and the next day we're scared half to death."

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Contact Emily Niebrugge at 394-8419 or emily.niebrugge@rapidcityjournal.com

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