Busy Keystone summer

Leslie Silverman


That’s what most business owners have said about Keystone’s summer season.

“Honestly, we are way up,” said Clay King, who owns several businesses in Keystone. “It’s been our busiest season by a long shot.”

While numbers at King’s Presidential Wax museum are down, “people are spending more money.”

King is not alone in seeing this trend.

“We’ve been busy more than some would have thought we would be,” said Robin Pladson, who became the Keystone Chamber of Commerce director right as the summer season began.

The visitor information center started off slowly but has seen about the same number of visitors as last year. Sales tax numbers for the month of August show the town collected over $265,000, up $6,000 from last year.

Transient business owner Dustin Poole brought his steak tips business from Sarasota, Fla. to South Dakota since all of the festivals, fairs, and shows he usually works at got canceled.

“We just got done with Sturgis,” Poole said. “It was good. We made a lot of money.”

The tented restaurant stayed in Keystone until Aug. 29 when it heads to the South Dakota State Fair.

Aura Gallery and Gold also saw “excellent foot traffic” this season, according to Mayett Howard, who runs the counter.

“We did good,” Howard said. “It was busy and more people than I expected.”

Dylan Thomas of Peggy’s Place restaurant has also seen a “crazy: season.

“We didn't know what to expect this season,” Thomas said. “As a whole it’s been one of the busiest we’ve had. I feel like everybody wants to get out.”

King agrees.

“The American vacation is iconic,” he said. “This year it’s more of a necessity. Families are looking for a safe domestic travel location.”

What King has not seen, however, are many seniors traveling.

“I think they’re waiting for fall,” he said.

And while King plans to stay open into shoulder season, like many other business owners he is struggling to find help to run his businesses.

“Right now I’d say it’s impossible,” King said. “There were no J1’s this year. School is back in session. We have had to limit our hours to some extent.”

Yolanda’s Mexican restaurant owner David Herrera has had the same struggle.

“It was a good season and I’m blessed to be working,” he said. “But this is an especially low labor market.”

Herrera counted on his daughter to help him survive.

“My biggest issue is labor,” he added.

Herrera joked about the mythical J1 creature he heard other business owners talk about, admitting that he often had to close his doors to run errands which ultimately impacted his bottom line.

Thomas, too was impacted by the lack of foreign workers.

“We didn't get any J1’s,” Thomas said. “It cut our hours from 7-8 to 7-2 . We only have a few employees here. We’re getting through it. If we had the help we would have been open our regular hours.”

His restaurant usually has twenty J1s.

Thomas plans to stay open “as long as we can. “

According to a list compiled by the staff at the visitor information center, many businesses plan to stay open through the end of October, some with reduced hours due to labor shortages.

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