Thedford- Small towns struggle to maintain their vitality and visibility; Thedford, a village of 200, seems to be succeeding in overcoming those struggles. Lt. Governor Foley, Senator Sasse’s representative, Ryan Broker from Ord, and Congressman Smith’s Agricultural Director, Sallie Atkins, Halsey came to help the community celebrate a year’s worth of economic growth.
They helped cut the ribbons on several new businesses, and saw the biggest improvement to the area, that of a new firehall for the volunteer fire department and rescue squad, just over a year old. All the firetrucks and two ambulances are now in one building, with space for another if purchased. Two buildings downtown housed the vehicles, with the commander’s truck having to set outside.
Foley praised the community on coming together to build a large and functional fire station, which cost about $700,000. He praised the volunteer fire fighters and called them “a gift to the taxpayers.” (taken from North Platte story by George Haws).
Ribbon cuttings were done at Dollar General, at the junction of U.S. 83, north and state Highway 2, the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway. Kristie Giles, store manager gave the tour. On hand also to answer questions was Mike Rancourt, new district manager.
“I and my family transferred to North Platte three weeks ago from Rhode Island.” He covers quite a territory of stores in central Nebraska. His biggest adjustment has been the traffic or the lack there of and the commute time, far different. “About the same amount of people in both states, but seven Rhode Islands can fit into Cherry county alone,” Giles stated. “I learned that in fifth grade.”
The group traveled west to the new CARS – Crossroads Auto Repair Specialists. The owners are not new to the business, Mike and Janice Hodges are second generation mechanics. The couple, along with Mike’s brother Dan and wife, Alice bought Hodges Conoco from the brother’s parents, Bill and Jane Hodges in 1991. The original Hodges Conoco was on the west end of town, and concentrated on fuel, at the pump and bulk, as well as auto repair.
The two couples along with their children built a new Hodges Conoco station east of town. They expanded into a convenience store offering snacks and fast food along with the fuel and repair shop. When the families sold the business several years ago, Mike and his son-in-law, Chad McIntosh, kept the auto repair shop going, renting the space.
Dan and Alice became co-owners and helped build KinKaiders brewery in Broken Bow. It was not too long, Mike and Janice gave up renting, fixed vehicles from their home garage until the new shop was completed, a week prior to the ribbon cutting. “We will have an official grand opening when we have all the finishing touches completed,” Janice stated.
After CARS, the group traveled to Ewoldt’s Grocery. This store has seen many owners, along with several names, but, since 2009, Allen has provided a large range of groceries and more to the area. “We are in a prime location, almost thirty miles from Mullen which has the closest store and then it is over an hour to either Valentine, North Platte, or Broken Bow,” explained Allen.
He is a third-generation grocer, growing up in his grand-dad’s, then his Dad’s store, which included meat processing. “We get many tourists coming from the forest, from Omaha, or Lincoln that are amazed at our offerings, “Ewoldt said. They have worked hard, installing new coolers, new freezers, bigger shelves that allow more variety.
They also are the booking agent for Cay Ewoldt’s, Allen’s son, Sandhills River Trips, tanking and tubing adventure on the Middle Loup. Another thing Allen prides himself on, his community support, donating to many fundraisers through the year; which you will not find from the new national chain store east of town.
South of Ewoldt’s, the ribbon cutting occurred inside the new With Love Photography Co. Bridget Licking, a mother of three, a stay at home mom, a substitute teacher, and a helper when needed on their ranch north of Stapleton, decided to use her love of photography to help supplement their income. She has rented the storage unit that once was a hair salon and transformed it into a photography studio. She specializes in family portrait sessions, senior pictures. “I was a wedding decorator for years, but although asked, I have not taken on that assignment yet.”
The last ribbon cutting of the day was in the old fire hall that is now a feed store. The dignitaries and those who attended, saw first-hand what the area volunteer firemen and EMTs had to deal with to serve the second largest fire district in the state. “It is even too small for a feed store at times,” stated Shalee Morrison, one of the staff. Owner Pat Laird from Cozad, also owns a feed store in Gothenburg, co-owns The Feed Bunk at Stapleton, and contracts with Mills Hardware in Arnold.
Laird’s son Lorene oversees the Gothenburg store, while three young wives, Bobbi Scott, Tess Chytka, and Morrison, take care of the Thedford store. The Lt. Governor was very appreciative of Laird gifting him with a jacket emblazoned with the Prairie Feed Supply logo.
Laird is also a caterer, and he and his staff and their spouses served a great meal of New York Strip sandwiches, potato salads and a myriad of cakes and dessert bars in the Legion Hall next door to the feed store as part of their grand opening.
After supper Lt. Governor Foley held an informative Q & A session, with of course the main concerns being property tax and healthcare. Senator Sasse’s representative, Ryan Broker, had an evening commitment, but left a letter sent from Sen. Sasse to the community, which was read by the emcee of the evening, Russell Licking. Sallie Atkins joined the Lt. Governor and addressed federal issues such as the farm bill and ELD (electronic logging devices) for truckers.
Lt. Governor hopes he can return when the second round of ribbon cuttings will be held for a new hanger under construction at the airport, a new branch of Western Nebraska bank is built, the remodeling of Security 1st Bank and other ventures are completed next year.