The owners of the Basin Pharmacy and Copper Corner Cafe have entered into a purchase agreement to buy the Wheeler’s IGA building from Ann Brundage and reopen Basin’s grocery store around April 1.
Craig and Leslie Jones confirmed the agreement last week, and while it hasn’t been finalized, it is expected to be shortly. Craig said he and his wife are also purchasing all equipment, shelving and remaining inventory from the Durbins, who were leasing the building from Brundage.
In addition to owning the pharmacy and cafe, the Joneses are also working to open a pharmacy in Greybull.
When asked why they decided to take on another project, Craig answered, “At times, I think it was insanity that caused us to take on this new venture. However, truth be told, it is our belief in the community of Basin and surrounding areas that induced us to buy Wheeler’s. Businesses in small towns are symbiotic. The better one does, often the better the others do. Since we already have two businesses in the town we realized that in order for the pharmacy and cafe to remain sustainable we needed a grocery store.
“When we heard Wheeler’s was closing we had no thoughts of buying it. We waited, expecting someone to purchase the business; but with the passage of time it became apparent that no one was taking the opportunity. We realized how essential a grocery store is to the town and felt we were in a position to take over the business. We made inquiries. One thing led to another and now we have another great adventure ahead of us.”
There is not a firm date for reopening, but April 1 is the target date, per Leslie. She said it might be a construction zone for a while after the opening. Craig added, “We are in the process of doing a significant and thorough deep cleaning of the building and will be refurbishing areas which we feel need to be complete in order to open. Our goal is to get reopened as soon as possible. Work on the building will continue after the reopening as there are many areas of the building that need attention.”
He continued by stating that the “used-to-be-red” carpet will be replaced with a new floor which will be more attractive and easier to keep clean and maintain. The ceiling will be repaired and the majority of the store will receive new paint. Then the shelves will be restocked with new and fresh product. Refurbishing will continue after it reopens. “We apologize in advance for any inconvenience our customers might incur as we section off different areas of the store for
improvements. I am confident that all will be pleased with the finished product,” said Jones.
Nate Baril will manage the store.
Jones noted, “When I first heard that Wheeler’s was closing, and well before we considered the purchase, I made the comment that the only way I would consider buying Wheeler’s was if I could get Nate Baril to run it for us. I had seen Nate’s work there in the past and observed his hard work, professionalism and knowledge of the grocery business. Things fell into place with unexpected ease, and Nate will be our store manager.”
Above the store are rooms that once were apartments and offices. At one time Big Horn REA’s office was there. The basement at one time held a pool hall. When asked if there are any plans for those portions of the building, Jones commented, “I have not seen a building with so much untapped potential as the Wheeler’s building has. It has an impressive amount of space. Much of the space is being underutilized or not utilized at all. The upstairs portion of the building is an intriguing space that we have plans on rejuvenating in the future. The retail space will be the priority initially, however.
“We desire to win back the confidence and business of the residents of our community. We plan on running a clean, fresh, professional business that the community can be proud of. The Wheeler’s building will, with time and a lot of work, be transformed from an eyesore into the treasure a historical building like that should be.”
Brundage said she believes the Joneses will be great owners and wishes them the best. She is glad to have a grocery store back in Basin. The Joneses plan to keep the store name and in the IGA family.
BY BARBARA ANNE GREENE