Neighbors to the World
Rural Success Stories:
VK Electroics fast forwards from movie rentals to thriving electronics store
by Cody Gerlach
Writer Cody Gerlach takes us to McCook to meet the Taylor family, who have transformed a small movie rental store into a multi-faceted business that meets the changing needs of its community. VK Electronics Home and Mobile first opened its doors as a video rental store in 1983, but owner Linda Taylor said if she could have seen back then what the business would become, she probably wouldn't have recognized it.
VK Electronics now sells furniture, televisions and home entertainment equipment, installs security systems and is an authorized dealer for DirecTV, Dish Network and HughesNet. The latest expansion has led the store into the grilling industry, dealing in top-of-the-line gas grills and smokers and even offering cooking classes on grilling and smoking every other month.
It's risky business starting something new, but the Taylors realize that to remain healthy and thriving in their community, they have to take risks. That's what makes them a Rural Success Story and we can't wait to share their story with you.
Those Blasted Signs & Designs
Designing signs beneath wide open skies
Tucked in among the canyons of Gosper County is a family farmstead where a thriving sign business lives. Cristal and Jeremy Hansen live north of Smithfield and operate Those Blasted Signs & Designs from their rural setting.
“I appreciate working out of our home in a rural setting where I have superb broadband and phone service, as well as a gorgeous canyon view out of my office window,” Cristal said. They watch hawks soar overhead as they design signs for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Talk about creative inspiration!
The Hansens prove you can be successful even miles away from the city. Creativity is tucked across the state in the most unlikely places because today’s technology is allowing business owners to work wherever they want, and the Hansens chose to stay rural. Visit their business in this month’s rural success story.
Writing Willa Cather's (and Red Cloud's) next chapter
Famous Nebraska author Willa Cather turned to her hometown, Red Cloud, for inspiration as she created the settings and characters in many of her books. Now the Willa Cather Foundation is working hard to restore and preserve those places and prairies by attracting more than 10,000 visitors every year to this tiny town of 992.
Writer Kristine Jacobson reads between the lines to outline the next chapter in this continuing story. She speaks with Ashley Olson, Willa Cather Foundation executive director, and Tracy Tucker, the foundation’s education director, about the next exciting steps to create attractions worthy of a return trip.
Not only does the Willa Cather Foundation continue its mission to bring attention to Cather, one of the leading female authors in the United States and a voice of American literary modernism, but the center seeks to be a destination for scholars, teachers, students and tourists. The foundation is doing amazing work and we invite you along as we travel down the road to Red Cloud to see just what is being done in this month’s rural success story.
Acres of vision just a Stones Thoreau away
Some of the best stories worth telling are several hours’ drive away, which writer Betty Sayers found as she turned onto Davenport’s wide main street and found herself in front of Stones Thoreau, a food-based enterprise started by entrepreneur and visionary Dr. Harold Stone.
In this month’s rural success story, Harold describes his vision of a whole food system, where small towns and rural communities can work together with the resources they have to stop out migration and population loss.
He has begun the task of making that vision a reality with Stones Thoreau, his Davenport storefront that houses a commercial kitchen for canning, cooking and baking. He has created a gathering space for the local community and started both indoor and outdoor farmers markets to bring residents together to share their abundance. His is definitely a story worth telling again and again so feel free to share it with your friends.
Articles & Essays:
Call for Entries - County Fairs
County fair memories (in pictures)
July started with a bang as we celebrated our nation's birthday enjoying Nebraska's great lakes, picnics with family and fireworks, but July also heralds the start of another of our state's great community-gathering traditions, county fairs. As we think about those sunny days at the fair, where neighbors gather for conversation, competitions and thrills, we thought it would be fun to see our local fairs through the eyes (and lens) of our readers.
July and August are reader Linda Potter's favorite months. She grew up on a farm in south central Nebraska and returned there often as an adult to pick chokecherries with her daddy.
In this month's essay, Linda relives one of her visits to pick chokecherries. "Popping a tart, mouth-numbing berry in my mouth, I thought, Yep, this is why they call them chokecherries." she writes. Her memories of working side by side with her daddy will have you smiling and recalling your own special memories with parents.
Before the long days of summer give way to the briskness of fall, we want to share Linda's story with you. "As the sun set, three hot, tired Nebraskans sat peacefully again on the front porch, enjoying the certainty of a day well spent. We had tasted the good life together and looked forward to more delightful outings in the days to come," Linda writes. Enjoy her memories as you make your own this summer.
Central Nebraska Public Power & Irrigation District - Part Three
The Power Side of the Central equation
We are continuing our year-long look at the importance of water in Nebraska by turning to the hydropower side of the story. Betty Sayers talks with key players at Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation to find out what keeps the turbines turning at Central’s four hydro plants.
Hydropower became part of the Central project only after Nebraska Senator George Norris said he would only back the project if hydropower was part of the plan. Project engineers agreed and today, hydropower sales support the irrigation, research, repair and other components of Central’s project.
Central is continually reevaluating and updating its hydropower program to maintain the most efficient process while improving the management of water. It’s a constant struggle to bring resources Nebraskans need without depleting our precious water source. It’s a challenge we all need to be aware of as we move forward. Find out more in this month’s essay.
A Pennsylvania pioneer discovers Nebraska
We share an outsider’s view of central Nebraska as Pennsylvania native and newlywed Alexandrea Donohue finds herself in Holdrege, Neb., far from family and the lush mountainous woods where she grew up.
“I couldn’t take my eyes off of the seemingly endless corn fields against the pure blue sky,” Alexandrea writes. She found the transition tough at first, moving to a small town where few new people without connections come to stay. Her writing is raw and emotional as she struggles to find her place in those early months.
Alexandrea’s voice is one we all need to listen to as we talk of bringing new residents to the rural places where we live. Ultimately, Alexandrea and her husband found friends who made room in their lives to be a part of this new couple’s Nebraska family. If you are one of those living in rural Nebraska, we hope this month’s essay will encourage you to look at those newcomers in your own towns with new eyes and a new understanding. Open your arms and hearts to welcome them in.
4th Avenue Coffee
Connecting community through coffee
Since 4th Avenue Coffee opened in Holdrege last September, Rural Foodie writer Scott Rager has found himself returning again and again to this coffee shop. It's a place where mud-crusted farm trucks rub shoulders with shiny SUVs.
For Rager, 4th Avenue Coffee reminds him of the days in his childhood when families would gather in downtown Holdrege on Thursday nights, not just to shop, but to socialize. After Brian and Elisha Steinbach moved to Holdrege a few years ago, Brian had a vision of creating a place where people could meet and connect. "Sometimes it takes an outsider to realize what we are missing in our own community," Scott writes.
Since its opening, 4th Avenue Coffee has earned a solid customer base thanks to its amazing offerings, stellar customer service and consistency, Scott writes. The Steinbach's dedication to quality ingredients and Elisha's superb baking creates a wonderful food backdrop where good conversation flows as easily as the coffee.
An exotic pit stop along I-80
As Scott Rager writes in the Rural Foodie feature this month, in the Midwest, if we are anything, we are consistent. We like our meat and potatoes, but “when a restaurant surfaces in rural Nebraska that serves up an ethnic cuisine of savory proportions, we celebrate flavor and become faithful patrons,” he writes.
He visited Jay Bros, an Indian restaurant that has opened in the most unlikely of places, a once abandoned truck stop at the Overton exit along Interstate 80. Harry Chaudhari and his family are serving up a culinary melody with notes of spice and flavor, served with ceremonial flare.
With intoxicating scents and food good for the soul, Jay Bros is an oasis along Interstate 80. The restaurant is young and finding its way as it serves those who stop by, but a little before-you-arrive preparation is worth it to find a delicious alternative to our meat and potatoes diet.
Chopped: Rural Foodie Style
Our May Rural Foodie adventure started with a culinary road map designed by our readers. When Rural Foodies Scott Rager and Betty Sayers returned from Davenport, Neb., where they had visited South Maple Street kitchen and Stones Thoreau for last month’s Rural Success Story, the fabulous ingredients they brought home begged for something well beyond the norm.
Scott turned to our readers, encouraging them to create a menu in the fashion of the Chopped program on the Food Network. The response was great and the adventure began.
We won’t give away the incredible results here, but if you read the entire Rural Foodie feature, you just may find a new way of looking at your pantry. Outside-the-box thinking and creative touches can refresh and revive as we watch the world around us coming to life this spring. It may also get us thinking of just how we can celebrate the bounty to come later this summer. Enjoy!
Not your typical day at The Office
by Scott Rager
Scott Rager met another visionary in this month’s Rural Foodie feature when he stumbled upon a local watering hole in Alma that epitomizes the phrase “a place where everybody knows your name.”
Chef/owner Gabe Johnson opened The Office one year ago after an extensive renovation to revive the hometown bar once owned by his parents. “The result is a sports bar that appeals to the clientele that Gabe knows so well,” Scott writes. “The Office is a place where local patrons will identify with their past and tourists drawn to Harlan County Reservoir will make memories of their own. No one will be a stranger in this place.”
Nebraska has many of these culinary and cultural treasures tucked in unassuming storefronts along tree-lined main streets. Gabe, in an effort to support the local community where he lives, works and plays, seeks to compliment other local establishments, not compete with them. He is a true example of what Nebraskans must continue to do to make their communities thrive and bring people back to these rural gems. Cheers!
Keep in Touch
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Dynamic Towns & Cities:
No one remains a stranger for long in Alma
If you want to get to know the town of Alma and learn about its people, start with a visit to any one of the venues where residents gather for morning coffee and a daily update on local happenings. Chances are you will meet enough friendly folks during your first visit that you’ll spend the rest of the day bumping into your new friends, ready with a now-familiar smile and another round of introductions.more...
Cambridge opens its arms, offering high-tech capabilities and new housing development
Cambridge is the kind of town where canopies of maple, ash and oak trees shade sturdy wood-sided homes and walkers, bicyclists and runners enjoy wide sidewalks, a park with a creek, and miles of well-kept trails. It’s a town known for a friendly, front-porch culture and a healthy lifestyle, opportunities to prosper in business, quality schools, and a strong sense of community.
At the same time, some of the latest and best internet technology available between Omaha and Denver fuels business start-ups, telecommuters and entrepreneurs. PinPoint Communications, headquartered in Cambridge, made fiber optic cable available to every home and business in Cambridge and brought wireless access to the public park and campgrounds.
Cambridge’s main street is a portrait of productivity in small town America. Every store front is currently leased and open for business. more...
Curtis, Maywood are beautiful spots to live the Nebraska good life
Nestled in the beautiful Medicine Creek Valley, Curtis and Maywood are roughly equidistant between McCook, Lexington and North Platte. Separated by only seven miles, both communities proudly proclaim excellent school systems and today, as it has been for millennia, the primary business in Frontier County is farming and ranching. Archaeological evidence suggests the population of the valley is roughly the same now as when it was occupied by Native Americans 1300 years ago.
Today, Medicine Creek Valley is home to the progressive Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, a new community center, an abundance of community spirit and an indomitable drive to thrive.more...
Indomitable spirit keeps Bertrand vibrant and dynamic
“To make a small community thrive, you work together.”
Bertrand is thriving in great part because this solidarity message is spoken in many different ways and by people of all ages and occupations in Bertrand. The town is bustling with committees planning the Bertrand Rodeo, the famous Bertrand craft show, a talent show, theater, music and sports activities, and fund raising events for families in need. Businesses also thrive in Bertrand. Over 72 businesses handle most wants and needs in the community, including a medical clinic and a weekly newspaper, the Bertrand Herald, which was recently sold to new owners.
Also Featured This Month
Bee Biz Inc. is a honey of a business for Oxford entrepreneur
When you think of agriculture in Nebraska, you may think of cattle and corn. However, an Oxford man has found his niche raising a smaller animal and a product you can't see in rows or grazing in fields while driving through the state.
Madeline’s Café is a charming spot for lunch and a working meeting
Every town should have a place like Madeline’s to grab a cuppa joe on the way to work or to sit for a while with friends and nibble a scone or a cupcake. Madeline’s is crisp and modern in its décor, with sturdy, comfortable chairs and tables, and an overstuffed couch.
Nebraska Bed and Breakfasts offer interesting rural tourism options
With summer in full swing, it’s time to head outdoors and enjoy some of your favorite activities. A nearby Bed and Breakfast can help in creating that relaxing and rejuvenating getaway you have been looking forward to all winter.