Kyle and Amelia Young want to open a store in Hanna. They have been working on their dream for over a year, but they have been stymied by banks’ hesitancy to take a chance on this young (no pun intended) couple. At this time, they are waiting for a loan to come through from either a bank in Craig or Laramie.
The Hanna Food Mart, formerly the only grocery store in Hanna, closed in 2010. Andy and Sandy Jones, owners for over 10 years, cited the bad national economy with Hanna’s loss of area jobs and population as the reason the store was no longer profitable. However, by that summer, Rodney and Linda Declue, a couple from Missouri, opened the doors again in the same building, albeit on a smaller scale. Lacking “deep pockets,” they could not afford to stock a sufficiently full array of items to keep locals from making the 80-mile there-and-back trek to Rawlins or Saratoga or the 140-mile round trip to Laramie. The Declues had more success in building up a restaurant trade, which they then moved to a smaller building on Jade Street to lessen their overhead. They still stocked a few very basic grocery items in a small back room, but when the couple moved to Rawlins and closed their business in 2012, Hanna was left without any store at all. The only convenience store, a Kum-and-Go had shut its doors and nailed plywood over its windows in 2003.
Enter Kyle and Amelia Young. Kyle was born in Hanna, but when Kyle was 17 his father was transferred to a coal mine near Craig, Colorado, due to the mine shutdown in Hanna. Kyle spent his senior year in Craig where he met his future wife, Amelia, but they didn’t start dating until he returned from his mission in Mexico in 2005.
Kyle and his family moved back to Hanna in the fall of 2012. When asked why, Young answered, “Well, I like it here. Like Dorothy would say, ‘There’s no place like home.’ ” Young also asserts that the move also makes good business sense. He said, “The old adage goes, ‘To have a successful business, find a need and fill it.’ There is a definite need for a store in Hanna. I have business reports from two different companies that say so. Better than that though is the reaction I get from people who hear my plans. I have literally been hugged in the street when I have shared my desire to open a store.”
Amelia Young, though she was born and raised in Craig, Colorado, is pleased with her new town. She said, “I like the small size and the slow pace. There is a peacefulness to Hanna. It is a great place to raise your kids because you don’t have to worry as much about them. The school system is really good here too. I really like the teachers.”
Kyle continued, “I am a small crowd kind of person. I appreciate living on a street where the most frequent visitors are a deer and her two fawns. We have found great people who share our interests and values. We bought our house from a gentleman who sold it to us without a bank because he knows the character of my parents and grandparents. It was small-town trust.”
Kyle Young gained a love for entrepreneurship while doing his graduate school work in Logan, Utah. He did well in a mock business start-up competition and said, “It really got me thinking about business. I have a somewhat scattered personality. I like to work on a project for a few hours, switch directions work on something else for a while, and then come back to what I was doing before. Being a small business owner means wearing a lot of hats, and that means that I can control my schedule and use my scattered personality to its highest potential.”
He said, ” I love planning. I think of the store constantly. It feels like a big board game sometimes, and I really get a kick out of bringing all the pieces together. In fact, I already have most of the suppliers set up. I am just working on financing to get things going with the store.”
Associated Foods will be the Youngs’ main supplier; they carry Western Family and Shurfine labels, as well as name brands. The Youngs plan to have baked goods, meats, and vegetables as well as packaged and canned items, convenience items, home improvement, and automotive items. They plan to lease the former grocery store premises in Miner Plaza from Everett Grubb.
In the meantime, Kyle works piloting oversized truck loads. He and Amelia have also been substitute teaching at the local schools. They have just started to renovate a new house that they will buy soon and, of course, they are busy with their four children, Elliona (7), Derrik (5), Seraphina (2), and newborn Genevieve.
Kyle Young does not assume people in Hanna will stop shopping in Rawlins or Laramie and spend money exclusively in his store, but he feels he can offer enough variety and competitive pricing to convince people to make the trip to town less frequently.
“I’ll never be able to beat Walmart, but I can beat Wal-Mart if you only need a gallon of milk…. Because that 70 miles there and back is worth more than the 15 cents extra you’ll pay for milk… I don’t have dreams that I will be able to supply food for people exclusively, because there are things that I can’t carry that even I want, for example, expensive cheeses every now and then. But instead of going every week, people only have to go into town once a month or less. That is the goal. I can’t say I can beat prices, but they will be comparable to Rawlins and Saratoga.”
Also, as a strategy to stay competitive, the Youngs plan “almost-at-cost, anytime bulk sales.” “No need to wait for a case lot sale,” Kyle says. “If you want something that I don’t sell, whether it is a different brand or different size or just a product I don’t carry and, if you don’t mind getting a whole case of it… I can give it to people cheaper because I don’t have to stock it on the shelves. That is what will stop people from going to Wal-Mart.”
When asked when they plan to be open for business, Kyle cautioned, “We still do not have any of the financing needed to start the store. We have a couple of good leads but nothing secure yet. In fact, the banks can’t really tell me how long the approval process would take. If they say no, then there is a big chance it might not happen soon… It all comes down to that loan, so we’ll see.”
People in Hanna hope to see a new Hanna grocery store open soon.