For the past 28 years, Sheridan Stationery, Books and Gallery owner Robby Smith has welcomed both young and old visitors and regulars into its Main Street store with the quintessential smell of new paperback books and the promise of locally-created stationery.
Kimberly Franzman, the co-owner of toy store Kid Curious located approximately a block away from Smith’s business, joined Main Street in March 2019 after previously living in Gillette and Texas while always dreaming of opening a retail business. Sheridan welcomed the Franzman family and discovered its appetite for local toys.
“The love for ‘shop local’ and ‘support your town’ — we’ve just really felt it,” Franzman said.
From the book store, Smith has seen many businesses come, like Kid Curious, and several businesses go along Sheridan’s Main Street. Regardless of who has occupied the 13-block stretch — be it a decades-old book store, new toy store, bar, restaurant or clothing store — Smith said the businesses have contributed to a vibrant downtown, perfect for the people of Sheridan.
“It’s wonderful to have a nice downtown,” Smith said. “Because the more places we have, the less reason people have to go to other places to shop.”
Main Street aims to serve the people of Sheridan with support from nonprofit organizations like the Downtown Sheridan Association and Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce, which actively work to maintain a healthy business community. The nonprofits understand Main Street, hometown businesses, local services, specialty and convenience shopping as well as recreational and cultural activities contribute to Sheridan’s charm and foster the community feel visitors seek and residents enjoy year-round.
DSA Executive Director Zoila Perry has never experienced a year like 2020 with its coronavirus-related protocols that affected nearly every business on Main Street and forced changes to be made to weekly and annual programming like the Sheridan Farmers Market and 3rd Thursday Street Festivals.
Without any precedent to guide the usually “well-oiled machine,” local organizations and individuals committed themselves to supporting Main Street however they could. They put businesses in touch with the Wyoming Business Council, sent along grant funding applications and forms and collaborated to make the Christmas Stroll in December an all-day event instead of a four-hour affair, for example.
“What are we still able to do?” Perry said individuals asked themselves.
Perry said the people of Sheridan rallied around small businesses. The community played “Downtown Bingo” in April and May, encouraged people to order takeout from their favorite restaurants or support local retailers’ online shops when possible. Through the Chamber’s Pledge Local Challenge and Chamber Bucks program, $223,532 was directly infused into the local economy. Chamber Bucks are a gift check that can be used at Sheridan County businesses. Smith witnessed a conscious effort from the community to shop locally, as she noticed Main Street’s variety of stores serve shoppers’ wants and needs.
“It’s really nice to see the loyalty,” Smith said. “People like being able to come into a store where you’re able to say, ‘Hi Sally, how are you?’ People like to be known and feel like they matter.”
Franzman moved to Sheridan when her husband found a job in town and opened Kid Curious with her mother-in-law because she had always wanted to own a retail business and realized Main Street could use a toy store. The daily conversations and interactions with the community that Smith has seen for years quickly welcomed Franzman.
“We’ve been really blown away by [the community],” Franzman said. “I would say this year especially. The local support has been great. Everyone who comes in here says, ‘We’re so glad you’re here.’ We get a lot of thanks, which is interesting, because we feel like we should be thanking them.”
Unprecedented year or not, watching generations of patrons peruse the bookshelves at Sheridan Stationery never fails to brighten Smith’s day.
“It’s nice to see an actual bookstore,” Smith said.
DSA, the chamber and others continue to ideate ways to support Sheridan in 2021, unsure how COVID-19 and its vaccine will affect everyday life, social gatherings and shopping tendencies, but remain determined to support Sheridan’s businesses and their favorite customers.
“We don’t know what it may look like (in 2021),” Perry said, “but we’re still going to advocate and help those businesses in any way that we can.”