Sunshine Cures COVID Blues
Gear Up for Adventure at SD Outdoor Shop
Most people would shy away from opening a business during a global pandemic, but Bobbi and Jeremy Schmidt barely hesitated before signing on the dotted line. The owners of South Dakota Outdoor Shop in Custer took the plunge in May 2020 amidst turmoil and uncertainty.
Their gamble paid off: business has been going so well, they’re expanding into a new building next spring. It’s quite the feat for a couple whose own outdoor experiences were limited.
Inching Their Way West
Growing up, neither Bobbi nor Jeremy were avid outdoor enthusiasts. Their first camping trips as a couple were basic.
“The little bit of camping we’d both done, we’d always just hung around the campfire all day — so that’s what we did,” Jeremy recalls. “In 20 years, we’ve learned a lot and fallen in love with it all.”
The Black Hills are sort of new to them, too. They have been Custer residents since 2015, though Bobbi, who grew up on a farm near Gettysburg, always dreamed of living there.
“The Black Hills were a family vacation spot,” she says. “I remember driving the Needles Highway with my parents, in the back seat, nose pressed against the window.
I told myself ‘don’t blink; you need to remember this so when you get back to the farm you can picture the whole thing.’ I was so enamored with the area!”
So much so that, when she first met Jeremy in 2000, she told him she planned to end up in the Black Hills and hoped he wanted to be there, too.
It took them a while to get there; they bounced around between Arizona; Jeremy’s hometown in Appleton, Minnesota; and both Redfield and Gettysburg before finally landing in the Black Hills for good.
“We slowly kept making moves further west,” Bobbi says. “This was always the eventual end game.”
March Madness Leads to May Opportunity
Bobbi was hired to manage South Dakota Outdoor Shop in January 2020 and quickly developed plans for the store.
“We came up with all these fun ideas and events,” Bobbi says. “Then March hit and we realized none of those things were going to happen.”
March, of course, is when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. By the end of April, the store’s owners — both of whom had other businesses that needed tending — made the Schmidts a proposition.
“They said, if you ever wanted to buy a business in the middle of a pandemic, now’s your opportunity!” Jeremy says. “That happened on Friday. On Sunday, we said, okay … why not?”
Though owning an outdoor shop was never on their radar, the Schmidts had previously owned a fitness center in Redfield and missed the interaction with customers.
“I’ve always loved owning my own business and being part of a small community,” Bobbi says. “We loved all the fun festivities you get to be involved with in a small town and having roots within the community.”
The sale was finalized on May 15, 2020, and the store reopened six days later.
Too Busy to Dwell on Negatives
Opening the business then was challenging, but the couple never dwelled on the negatives. They just didn’t have time.
“It happened too fast to think about,” Jeremy says. “We were trying to get things ready to go and didn’t sit down long enough to really let what was going on sink in. Next thing we knew we were open, so we just dove in and went with it.”
South Dakota Outdoor Shop offers apparel and gear for outdoor enthusiasts, as well as bike rentals, trail passes, and kayak/paddleboard rentals. For visitors coping with the constraints of the pandemic, it filled a void.
“People would come in anxious and stressed out,” Bobbi says. “They’d come back after a couple of hours on a bike as a different person. Moving, being in nature, is good for your mental health. Being there for them filled me with gratitude. You realize that everybody is connected and we’re all in this together.”
The Schmidts rely on Golden West to help run their business, from phone service to internet for credit card processing. They even offer free Wi-Fi to customers who enjoy beer and wine on their patio.
“It’s nice knowing those things are consistent and allow us to communicate and do the business we do,” Bobbi says.
Bigger Building, Extended Season
Now that things are returning to normal, Bobbi and Jeremy are once again looking to the future. They’ll move into their new downtown Custer location in spring 2022 and have a
“We are hoping to grow our business in a way that helps the Custer community,” Bobbi says. “We need to figure outwhat Custer needs from us year-round so we can extend our season. We want to be in this for the long haul!