Ranch Women Bring Needed Services to Union Center & White Owl
Ask Cheryl Hammerstrom what she enjoys about her off-ranch career and she responds without hesitation.
“I love my customers. I truly do. They are just the best. There’s a connection I think that you make,” Hammerstrom said.
Her customers feel the connection.
“Just friendly and just seems to care,” Anders said.
Stan Anders is a second-generation Union Center business owner and his business, Anders Trucking sits across Highway 34 from PrHairie Country Cut N Curl. Cheryl has been cutting his hair for many years.
And like so many of Cheryl’s customers appreciates the fact he does not have to drive 40-plus miles to get his hair cut.
Providing a needed service to her community is among the reasons Cheryl stays open. This is ranch country.
Again Cheryl Hammerstrom.
“Our next-door neighbors are like two miles away. And then the rest of them are like 8 to 10 miles away,” Hammerstrom said.
In addition to her business, for more than 20 years, Cheryl served on the steering committee and took care of the scheduling for the Central Meade County Community Center.
During our conversation, sisters Shayde and Elixy Keffeler arrive for their appointments. Shayde is a high school freshman and Elixy is a seventh grader. Like Stan Anders, the sisters appreciate the convenience of Cherl’s shop.
“You’d think that people out here would have to have their moms cut their hair or something, but it’s nice to have her out here because not everybody wants to have their mom’s cut their hair,” Elixy Keffeler said.
And they never have to worry about having something to visit about because they have known Hammerstrom their entire lives.
“There’s never a boring moment in here. It’s never silent. We always have some funny story to tell or something that happened in the past few weeks we can talk about,” Shayde Keffeler said.
Although Hammerstrom enjoys her salon work, her first love is her family’s ranch. She is a fourth-generation rancher. And at the day’s end, her favorite way to unwind is on horseback.
“I just love my horses. They are good for my soul,” Hammerstrom said.
Hammerstrom and her husband, Terry, ranch 20 miles south from Union Center. Helping keep the ranch afloat is one reason she opened her business in 1986.
“We probably would have had to leave the ranch and let it go had I not started the shop,” Hammerstrom said.
Today, the Hammerstrom Ranch does not depend on Cheryl’s income. And she does spend more days working with Terry on the ranch.
But PrHairie Country Cut N Curl stays open even when she is not there because Hammerstrom’s business is home to businesses owned by other area ranch women: Chelsie Shearer and Shirrise Linn.
Back in the day, White Owl used to be a bustling community, but then in 1912 a prairie fire took out nearly every building in town except for the White Owl Store and Post Office.
Today, the White Owl Store still stands because Shaw is determined to keep it open.
“57792 is still on the map as a town. As long as it has a zip code on it, we’re still considered a town, so it’s pretty neat to say that I own the only store in White Owl, South Dakota,” Ann Shaw said.
Keeping White Owl on the map matters to Shaw because her husband’s family has been ranching in White Owl for more than a century.
“His family has always been from here. About 1897, I believe, is when his family came from Ireland and started ranching here. We live just a few miles down the road,” Shaw said.
Shaw opened her first boutique and hair salon on the family ranch.
“It gave me a creative outlet, because I like to be creative, and I like to have something to do. So, I think that’s where it really helped me out and it helped our family out financially,” Shaw said.
When Shaw purchased the store after the previous owner passed away, it needed a lot of work. So, she and her husband, Les got to work.
“It has its challenges. Nothing is square. Nothing is even. But I think it came together really well and I’ve really enjoyed giving it a little facelift and taking it back to an updated version of an old store,” Shaw said.
Their goal was to stay true to the store’s architectural history, while at the same time create a space that was beautiful and welcoming.
When they completed the White Owl Store restoration in 2020, Shaw said the reaction from visitors told her they had accomplished their goal.
“They walk in and say, “oh this is a surprise, I had no idea this was here,” Shaw said.
Visitors like Codi Mills.
“It’s unique in the fact that Ann and Les came in and revived an old store and you don’t always get that. A lot of people come in and tear down older buildings,” Mills said.
Mills and her husband ranch with her parents near Belle Fourche. And like Shaw, she also has an off-ranch career. She is the editor of Cattle Business Weekly. Mills says that by revitalizing the White Owl Store, Shaw brought more to this rural ranching community than a clothing boutique and a place to get a haircut.
“She is providing a little bit of a sense of community along with the service of being able to come in and maybe you know buy that gift item that I talked about. But then also, if you maybe just want to come in and visit or see who’s in the salon, it’s kind of just a fun stopping spot for people,” Mills said.
It’s easy to stop by and check out the White Owl Store or PrHairie Country Cut N Curl. They are both located right off Highway 34 between Sturgis and Pierre.