Boyers sell Buglin’ Bull

By Jason Ferguson

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The Buglin’ Bull Restaurant and Sports Bar changed hands last week, as WR Hospitality purchased the property from owners, from left, Johnathan Stahl and Janet and Brian Boyer. The trio decided to sell the business after deciding to scale down their business interests and hectic schedules as Brian fights cancer. [Submitted Photo/Deb Wallenberg]

Almost a decade after they purchased it, Brian and Janet Boyer have sold the Buglin’ Bull Sports Bar and Restaurant.

It was October 2009 when the Boyers and Johnathan Stahl added the restaurant to their growing list of business interests, but at that time the restaurant was known as Elk Canyon Steakhouse. The group spent around eight months renovating the restaurant and opened for business as the Buglin’ Bull June 17, 2010.

Yesterday morning, the Buglin’ Bull became the property of WR Hospitality in connection with Ramkota Companies.

The sale was all about quality of life for the Boyers and Stahl, or, more importantly, the quality of life for Brian Boyer. Brian continues to battle pancreatic cancer, an especially devastating form of cancer that can have very low survival rates depending on the stage of the cancer.

The Boyers made the decision to sell the Buglin’ Bull in September of last year and met with a realtor that fall. By January, Janet Boyer said, the talks to sell the Buglin’ Bull had gotten serious.

“We did not want to sell the Bull, but we just absolutely cherish quality of life and this will give us a better quality of life, simply because we will have more time as a family,” Janet said.

Brian has undergone 15 rounds of chemotherapy and understands the grimness of the disease he carries. However, on the positive side, the cancer has not progressed since he began chemotherapy.

Brian said selling the Buglin’ Bull is bittersweet due to the friends made through the business and the employees who became like family.

“It’s hard to walk away,” he said.

Stahl, who spent five to six nights a week there to make sure things were operating smoothly, said the time was right to sell, calling the 10 years they owned the business a great run.

“We had a great community behind us,” he said. “We were very supportive of the community and it supported us. We just need to take a little bit of a load off.”

Another silver lining, Janet says, is the sale of the business to WR Hospitality. It was the only company they wanted to sell the business to because of the company’s extensive history in the restaurant business and quality reputation.

“They truly do understand the hospitality industry,” she said. “We feel with them coming in, the food scene will be elevated. From the beginning, this is the only company we worked with.”

WR Hospitality owns and operates the Minerva’s restaurants in South Dakota, along with RedRossa restaurants in the state and Augie’s Sports Bar and the Deadwood Grille at The Lodge in Deadwood. It also helps with food and beverage in Custer State Park, where Regency Hotel Management, the management arm of Ramkota Companies, manages the park’s resorts. Regency also manages two other Custer businesses under the Ramkota umbrella: the Kleemann House and Rock Crest Lodge, another former Boyer property.

Josh Schmaltz, chief operating officer for Ramkota Companies, called the purchase of the Buglin’ Bull another great opportunity to be in “the thriving Custer community.”

“We love what the community has done as a whole, capitalizing on all the tourists coming to the area,” he said. “It’s a thriving community and we wanted to be involved in it, not just in the capacity of Custer State Park. There are great opportunities in Custer. The success Custer has had to this point is just the beginning, so why not be a part of it in a larger capacity?”

Schmaltz said, while there will be some changes to the Buglin’ Bull, plans for now are to operate it as it is. Any changes will come after the summer tourist season.

The Buglin’ Bull will remain open during the winter, Schmaltz said, as WR Hospitality investigates ways to perhaps even expand during the winter. Perhaps the best news of all for the town is that all of the restaurant’s employees who want to be retained will be retained and will receive the benefits package WR Hospitality offers, such as health insurance, a 401k plan, etc.

Schmaltz said there is no general manager in place for the restaurant yet and, because of that, Don Anderson, president of WR Hospitality, along with some other WR employees, will be onsite for at least the next 30 days to ensure the transition runs smoothly.

As for the Boyers and Stahl, as Stahl says, they are not going anywhere; the family still has its other business interests — Mount Rushmore Brewing Co., The Begging Burro and Custer Car Wash — to keep them busy. 

“We appreciate all the support the past 10 years. The community has been great,” Brian said. “It’s been fun to have been a part of downtown Custer.”

“Our staff is a wonderful staff. We couldn’t have done it without them for 10 years,” Janet added. “I really appreciate the fact we have had the opportunity to support different organizations and different parts of the community and to be a part of the community. It’s just been a blessing.”