Buying into the Powell economy

Posted 8/20/09

Several businesses have new owners this year. Of the new owners, three took over active businesses, while another hopes to revive a restaurant location that closed recently.

Don and Mary Thomas purchased Lights ‘N Such early this year, and …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Buying into the Powell economy


Despite the gloomy economic news nationally, people still are willing to take the plunge into running a business in Powell.

Several businesses have new owners this year. Of the new owners, three took over active businesses, while another hopes to revive a restaurant location that closed recently.

Don and Mary Thomas purchased Lights ‘N Such early this year, and Alan Skalsy purchased Poor Boy Feed in May. This month, the family of Erica Brantz and her husband, Levi Seedhouse, purchased and took over management of Hansel and Gretel's, while Jim and Christine Sanders began serving at Table 7 in the building that formerly housed Joey's Martini Bar/The Bus Stop.

Like the owners of several new businesses featured in an earlier article, the new owners don't express much worry about the economic situation. Mary Thomas, for example, said her motivation for buying Lights ‘N Such was both personal and community oriented, and not really connected to the economy.

Thomas said she was concerned that the store might go out of business when the previous owners retired, creating another gap on Bent Street and ending an opportunity to shop locally.

“I didn't want the business to go under,” Thomas said.

Thomas said she and her family lived in Powell for 16 years, and she enjoys the town's sense of community but hadn't participated very much.

“I wasn't as much a part of the community as I would have liked,” Thomas said. “This was an opportunity to engage in the community.”

Thomas said the economy wasn't a concern for her because she was taking over a well-run, well-established business that had a loyal clientele and was competitive, drawing customers from other communities besides Powell.

Aside from adapting a computerized inventory system, Thomas said she plans no changes in the store.

“I'm not going to change what's working well,” she said.

So far, things are going well, Thomas said, due in part to new construction continuing in Powell.

Taking over a well-established business was also a plus for Levi Seedhouse, who, with his wife Erica Brantz and her family, began operating Hansel and Gretel's this month.

“It's one of Powell's mainstays for 36 years,” Seedhouse said. “Its clientele has been steady for a long time.”

Seedhouse said he believes small towns, such as Powell, in Montana and Wyoming are “a little insulated” from the national economy, and businesses won't be affected as much as those in larger cities.

Like Thomas, Seedhouse plans no big changes for Hansel and Gretel's, aside from updating the bar, increasing efficiency and computerizing the business.

Things have been going well, Seedhouse said, and he is hopeful about the future.

“Quite a few locals are coming in,” he said. “Everyone's had a good response.”

For Jim Sanders, who, with his wife, is opening Table 7 in a location that has seen similar establishments come and go in recent years, the economy is not his main concern.

“The economy doesn't scare me as bad as keeping the equipment working,” Sanders said.

Sanders said the couple decided to take the challenge of opening Table 7 because “Christine always wanted to do it,” and he believes the restaurant can be successful despite the economy. Like Seedhouse, he said Wyoming's economy seems to be healthier than the national economy, and the downturn won't affect Powell as much because “it's a small town.”

While the restaurant has been open only a short time, Sanders said he has been happy with the response.

“People are coming in, and for the most part, they're going away happy,” he said.

Sanders originally planned to keep his job with Western Sugar until he got so busy with the restaurant, and he believes his hard work will help the enterprise succeed.

“It's a big step,” Sanders said, “but if you put in the elbow grease to make it work, everything will work out.”

Skalsky, who retired from the Powell schools this spring, said he bought Poor Boy when the opportunity arose because “it's something I always felt like I'd like to do,” and he wasn't concerned about the economy.

“I always felt that people would take care of their animals even if the economy was bad,” Skalsky said.

Skalsky was forced to relocate to a new location of South Street shortly after he took over the store, but the move has been good for him.

“There's better parking and better lighting, and I have more space,” Skalsky said.

Business is holding up, Skalsky said, and he has been surprised by the demand for chicken feed by his customers.

“I'm just trying to keep my customers happy,” he said.