In 2002, the city of Bayard (pop. 1,247) faced several economic tragedies. The local grocery store burned down, damaging an adjacent diner. The fire not only left the town without a grocery store, but with no foreseeable plans for reopening the diner. Additionally, a major employer in Bayard closed its doors. Hit hard, the Nebraska panhandle city resolved it would not become a statistical has been. Townsfolk were determined to revitalize the community.
One of the first steps the community took was to partner with Twin Cities Development in Scottsbluff. The quick action taken by the city coupled with the recent election of a new mayor and three new city council members led to the startup of development projects that had been tabled for years. The Nebraska Department of Tourism’s TARGET team conducted a tourism assessment in Bayard in June of 2003. The team outlined possible strategies for development and the since then many new businesses have opened in Bayard, ranging from a national retailer to locally-owned and operated restaurants and gift shops.
One of the first positive economic signs was the opening of Dollar General in January 2003. The grand opening was previously delayed twice due to extensive remodeling of the building. The store opening resulted in 10 new jobs. In addition to Dollar General opening, Sweet Basil, a local restaurant, moved to a new facility three blocks from its original location to better accommodate its growing customer base and catering business.
In July 2003, renovations got underway on the burned grocery store, but until its completion, there was a great need for a local grocery provider. To help residents with their grocery needs, the convenience store Burda’s Tiger Pause, installed a cooler and freezer to store meats and frozen goods. The store had always carried a limited number of grocery items, but with no local grocery store, demand for groceries skyrocketed. The new grocery store reopened March 2004 with 10 employees.
The concept for a new video store also was developed following the fire. Previously, the grocery store was the only play in town to rent movies. When it burned down, all movie rental service went with it. The stand-alone Sunset Video offers new releases and old favorites on DVD and VHS and sells popcorn, candy, and sodas.
In addition to the reopened grocery store and new video store, gift shops began springing up. The owner of Petunia’s Flower Shop and Unique Gifts relocated her store from her home to a downtown building. Petunia’s specializes in fresh and silk flower arrangements and gifts, particularly homemade teddy bears.
Mood Swings is a gift shop that celebrates and promotes interaction between people and the arts, selling items that include photos, paintings and antiques. A photo restoration service is offered, and public poetry reading, music and dance performances are scheduled throughout the year.
Two new shops in particular have ‘Nebraska’ themes. One is Nebraska Gallery, which held its grand opening in November 2003. It features gifts ranging from food to blankets and furniture all made exclusively in the panhandle region and throughout Nebraska. The other shop, Home Grown Cellar, which also opened in November 2003, includes a restaurant and meeting room. Similar to Nebraska Gallery, this store sells crafts and items made throughout Nebraska. Home Grown Cellar’s restaurant serves mostly sandwiches and soups, but also features German food representative of the area’s predominant heritage. An adjoining meeting room has been dubbed ‘The Nebraska Room.’ Interestingly, the owners never planned on opening a business, but became so excited following a tourism meeting that they purchased a downtown building and began remodeling it.
R&S Train Stop, a railroad themed restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, opened in early November 2003. Model trains are located throughout the restaurant and menu items are named with railroad terminology. The owners hope to erect a model locomotive engine on the roof to attract more customers. Plans also are in the works to have live entertainment on the weekends.
The Branding Iron is another restaurant that opened December 2003. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to its patrons. The owners also serve as cooks, and butcher their own meat. A banquet room is available for large parties or special events.
Whatever happened to the owners of the Bayard Diner that burned alongside the grocery store? They were itching to get back into business, but because so many restaurants had opened, they chose to reopen Crocker’s Liquor, a store that had closed in September 2003. Under new management, it was ready for business in January 2004, and offers a full line of beers, wines and spirits.
Through all the trials that Bayard encountered, citizens rose to the challenge and helped revitalize the community, significantly impacting the economy and keeping the community on the map.