The Saratoga Sun -

Encampment seeks to attract new businesses

 


e town of Encampment’s once-thriving business district, several vacant yet usable buildings sit unoccupied, just waiting to be filled by hopeful business owners.

With this in mind, members of the Encampment Town Council are looking to attract new business to the area and get their town growing economically again. Encampment Town Council Member Mary Martin, who has lived in Encampment for 33 years, said during the summer season is a good time for a new business owner to open up shop in Encampment.

“There are probably so many individuals that probably have so many great ideas that have always wanted to be a business owner, but didn’t think they had the opportunities,” she said. “There are so many opportunities in Encampment right now, like the Aunt Martha’s building space the town owns and the business park, not to mention the private owners of the Saulcy’s building, Pine Lodge building and E&H building. I think there’s lots of opportunities right there on the main street. Because we have so much traffic through here in the summer, now is the time to capitalize and bring businesses in.”

As of now there are only a handful of storefront businesses currently available in Encampment, which includes the sawmill, Doggett’s Greenhouse, Chez Booze, Karl’s Auto and Salon Sierra. However, several vacant buildings exist across the downtown district that could potentially house businesses.

Aunt Martha’s This ’n That was the most recent business to close in town, providing another vacant spot next to Encampment Town Hall.

Martin said the town currently has houses for sale, and is ready to provide support to anyone, including locals and outsiders, interested in starting a business in or relocating a business to Encampment.

“We have connections with the Wyoming Business Council and Carbon County Economic Development, and they can help with business plans and get the ball rolling for someone new to business, or who is trying to get back into an established business,” she said. “Of course, Encampment does have a small economic fund that was actually set up decades ago. Every community was given this money, and we still have some of our funds available from that. We can loan with good plans in place, and then you’d pay back on a really low rate.”

Martin said also she would love to see Encampment become the town it once was in the late 19th century, when copper was booming and miners flocked to the area. She mentioned that the town was quite different during the 1890s, and was important enough to be considered for Wyoming’s state capital.

“Encampment was in line to be the state capital at one time, there were that many people and miners here,” Martin said. “There were businesses that ran Rankin, McCaffrey and Sixth Street, and the business district was full with quite a few bars, three banks, mining companies, mercantile stores, cafes, grocery stores. As soon as the copper dried up and the miners all moved out, we became a smaller community. Our sustainability has been logging and area ranching, which has helped keep us going, but at this point a lot of us have to go out of town to make a living.”

Throughout the 20th Century Encampment remained a small community with fewer than 1,000 people, and always had its share of stagnancy in population level. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, which showed city and town growth by decade, Encampment had a 2010 total estimate population of 450, and its population in 1910, 103 years ago, was 421 people.

The town’s population then hovered between 200 and 350 people until growing to a 20th century peak of 611 people in 1980, which, according to Martin, was in part because of the mining boom of the 1970s. After 1980, the population declined to the 400s and stayed in that general range.

Hoping to keep people from traveling to Saratoga for basic necessities, Martin said she would be glad to see a little bit of everything come to Encampment.

“I would love a grocery store here, since you have to pre-plan for groceries when you live here, and I would like to see a restaurant, convenience store or gift shop, you know, somewhere you can pick up presents for a last-minute birthday party,” she said. “We have so many options, we just need the person with the dream.”

Martin said she assumes the harsh winters and Highway 70 closure during the winter are partly why many businesspeople may not be interested in setting up shop in Encampment. She said she has had a few interested parties contact the town about possible business setup, but that nothing is set in stone as of now.

However, as a 33-year Encampment resident who remembers the community’s more thriving days, Martin is still optimistic that the area could grow with enough attention.

“I’m always hopeful the area could start growing again, and I always look at Encampment and the surrounding communities and say, ‘Wow, if everyone could see, if everyone could live here,’ she said. “If a person ever says there’s nothing to do here, I think ‘Are you crazy? There’s something all the time in our area to do.’ We have to get people here or get them through here, and they’ll fall in love with the place.”

 

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