When it comes to investing in Custer, few can rival Brian and Janet Boyer.
Whether it’s buying and remodeling a new property to further enhance the business community of Custer, donating to a variety of charities and local causes or serving the community as a volunteer on a local board, the Boyers continue to be at the forefront of helping their hometown and making it a better place both in the peak tourism months and the slow winter months for residents and visitors alike. For these reasons and more, Brian and Janet Boyer have been named the 2017 Custer County Chronicle Citizens of the Year.
The Boyers began their journey to entrepreneurship when they were school teachers in Hill City. Janet, who is from Hot Springs, met Brian, who is originally from Gettysburg, when he moved to Hill City to teach. She was a special education teacher for the school district and Brian taught journalism and photography.
It was 33 years ago when they became a couple, and they have been married since 1994. Their business ownership actually began in Hill City, where they opened the Mt. Rushmore Brewing Co., Pauline’s Ice Cream Parlor, the Bumpin’ Buffalo and even a newspaper—the Mt. Rushmore Press—for a while.
The two began their business foray in Custer when they purchased what is now the Days Inn in 1999, and a few years later purchased the Rock Crest Inn, where they did what they do best—completely renovate and upgrade the business, while adding to it and making it even better. The cabins that sit on the hill behind the main building were all constructed by the Boyers. By this time, their son, John Stahl, had become a business partner as well.
These days, the Boyers have invested a great deal into the City of Custer. They are owners of the Buglin’ Bull Restaurant and Sports Bar, Begging Burro, Custer Car Wash, Custer Corral and the soon-to-be-opened Mt. Rushmore Brewing Co. What could possibly be their final business venture, the brewing company, was also their first. They also dabbled in land development before selling the land late last year.
Stahl said it’s not always easy being in business with his parents, but in the end, they work well together.
“Everyone has their own niche in the game. Brian is very tech savvy, very marketing savvy,” he said. “Janet is a real people person. She does a lot of scheduling and works with the staffs at the restaurants.”
The Boyers are one of the largest supporters of the Custer School District. Whether it’s sports or academics, the Boyers are generous in their giving to the school system and the children, as evidenced by their sponsorship of the Fifth Quarter, a post-game get- together they sponsor at the Begging Burro following home football and basketball games that offers students a chance to play games and enjoy some food and drink in a safe environment, all for free.
Custer School District superintendent Mark Naugle so appreciates what the Boyers do for the school district that he nominated them for the Wildcat Award—a school district award given to a local business or person who support the school district staff and students. The Boyers were presented with the award last year.
“The Boyers have been very accommodating when the district has needed a place to hold dinner or lunch meetings,” he said.
Naugle points out the Boyers have hosted the reception and provided food for families and staff after the school Hall of Fame induction ceremony, have provided breakfast for students at some of the school’s ICU Breakfast Club dates and have also hosted a school district staff appreciation dinner for free.
Custer Jr./Sr. High School principal Orion Thompson said the Boyers are some of the most welcoming and warm people he has met, marveling at how the Boyers support everything at the school.
“As the years have gone by, Janet and Brian have continually sought out ways to show and provide support for the changes we have made and the activities we have brought back to the school,” he said. “Janet and Brian are those people that I feel a community can build around in a positive direction. They make me want to do more for my kids, our school and the community.”
The Custer YMCA is another beneficiary of the Boyers’ generosity, and YMCA director Rex Jorgensen called the Boyers two of the most genuine people he has ever dealt with. Most people don’t know it, he said, but Janet at one time had a hand in running the swimming pool for the summer.
“Janet has a heart the size of Custer County,” he said. “Especially when it comes to kids. And Brian would give you anything if it would help you out.”
Jorgensen said the Boyers have helped the YMCA out dramatically over the years, not only with their financial contributions but with gifts in kind or hosting campaign kickoffs, meetings, etc.
Last summer Janet went to the pool one hot afternoon and gave the lifeguards a pep talk about their performance over the past several summers.
“They pretty much knew who she was, but had no idea who she really is and the kind of community supporter that she, Brian and Jumbo (John) are,” Jorgensen said. “You couldn’t find a better couple to give this award to.”
When they aren’t donating food, drink or restaurant space to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Rifle Assoc., school district or myriad other entities, they are enriching the community with their talent and knowledge as volunteers. Brian has served as a city alderman and helped launch the local Business Improvement District (BID) board, which has done wonders for promoting Custer, while Janet has also had her hand in local organizations that follow their goal of making Custer a better place.
“They want to keep a positive community. It’s home. They want to support the community,” Stahl said. “It’s a great community. There are a lot of great people to work with and be friends with.”
Custer Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Dave Ressler said few communities have assets like the Boyers—people who invest in a community not only with vision, but with professionalism as well. You need only look at the businesses they purchase and remodel as evidence they go the extra mile in everything they do.
“They don’t just put a sign in the window that says open. They design the property to add character to the community,” he said. “They are one of the reasons others have followed their lead in attracting people to this great community. With their knowledge of business and tourism, the Boyers are the greatest asset any community could ever have.”
A friend of the Boyers, John Culberson said it’s not unusual for Janet to respond “because it’s good for Custer” when she is asked why they are doing another project or keeping the Buglin’ Bull open during the lean winter months.
“Rather than rest on their laurels, Brian and Janet are always looking for another way to help the community,” Culberson said. “It never ceases to amaze Susan (Culberson) and me.”
The Boyers have an aversion to seeing any building on Main Street stand empty, Culberson said, and take it as a personal affront and try to figure out how to fill it.
Culberson went to the Boyers a few years ago to ask if they would be interested in helping Custer County Search and Rescue (SAR) do a fundraiser. Not only were they interested, but they were “all in” on what has now become SAR’s annual Rocky Mountain Oyster Feed. The Boyers provided the locale and the food at no cost and have done so for several years. As SAR looked for a bit larger venue than the Buglin’ Bull in which to hold its auction, the Boyers were willing to open the Custer Corral, even though it isn’t open that time of year. It was eventually decided to hold the event at Crazy Horse Memorial’s Laughing Water Restaurant since it is open year-round, but the Boyers’ gesture was not lost on SAR members.
The Bark Beetle Blues and Mickelson Trail Trek are two more events that benefit from the Boyers’ sponsorship, Culberson said, with their willingness to do the latter keeping the opening festivities in Custer, he believes.
“The Boyers’ willingness to do whatever it takes to keep the base in Custer has benefitted the entire community and few people know anything about it,” he said.
Stahl said he has no doubt the Boyers will continue to keep putting in their time and talent to benefit Custer, but believes the Mt. Rushmore Brewing Co. will be their last project.
“It’s time to get them slowed down,” he said. “We have our hands full, especially in the summer. It’s a lot of work.”
Hard work is one of his parents’ key traits, Stahl said, and it’s no coincidence they have launched so many successful businesses considering the time and effort they put into them.
When they aren’t working, the Boyers enjoy golf, and get to enjoy that at a winter home they have in Fountain Hills, Ariz. They are also both avid motorcycle riders and also enjoy the simple act of dining out with friends.
When a community has citizens like the Boyers, its needle is always pointing up. They give to Custer community in a number of ways that are befitting of being named Citizens of the Year.
The Boyers are never ones to toot their own horns, Culberson said, and a person is likely to only learn about all they do for the town in casual conversation.
“It just comes up and when we get home Susan and I just shake our heads because most folks in town, and even in the tourism industry, have no idea what they have done or plan to do,” he said. “They are the quiet, unassuming heroes of Custer. I do not think that overstates it at all.”