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A growing business community –

YANKTON, S.D. (KELO) – Imagine putting your heart into a business, then just one day after you open, a pandemic forces you to close your doors. That’s just one of the stories you’ll find in the city of Yankton. You’ll also find brand new businesses that opened after the pandemic began.

Chris Hunhoff is the owner of The Boat House in Yankton.

“We offer golf simulation, ax throwing, shuffle board, ski ball, things we thought would be fun in a bar and entertainment center, so built a place to house it all,” owner of The Boat House, Chris Hunhoff said.

This downtown business opened at the end of March of 2020.

“Then April 2nd, all bars and restaurants were shut down in town, so we were actually only open a night, so then we were kind of our of commission for 5 weeks or so that was kind of our first shock,” Hunhoff said.

But thanks to support from the community, he’s been able to keep his business going.

“Not just people from Yankton but people from Nebraska and surrounding area has been a huge part of our business and even luckily last year what probably kept us going was people that came to the lake,” Hunhoff said.

Nancy Wenande, who is the CEO Yankton Area Progressive Growth and interim Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce director, says over the last year, the small business environment has been growing in town.

“While the pandemic has been a challenge for a lot of communities, for some reason here in Yankton with our local citizens, really supporting local business, it’s given the community the opportunity to open up some new businesses, that really help, whether it be in the recreational market, retail, or food and beverage,” CEO Yankton Area Progressive Growth/interim Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce director, Nancy Wenande said.

Another business that just opened up… Bro Brgr Bar in downtown Yankton. Owners Lauren Soukup and Ramiro Nino started welcoming customers in February.

“The response has been awesome, the support has been awesome, everyone seems to like it, I think you will always have people that don’t love it but we see a lot of repeat customers and that’s good,” co-owner Bro Brgr Bar, Ramiro Nino said.

Wenande says it’s not just new businesses opening up, but others are expanding.

“We also had places like Scooter’s that had an expansion, Dairy Queen located to a different location and significantly expanded their footprint in Yankton, so it’s nice to see some of the local long term businesses also finding ways to grow and expand,” Wenande said.

“People are really big into supporting local business, we have a couple beers from the local breweries in town and people will come in asking specifically about those,” co-owner Bro Brgr Bar, Lauren Soukup said.

Business owners says it’s not just the customers showing support, they also help each other.

“Really allowed some of us to collaborate, one of our biggest days was a collaboration between River’s Edge and Backspace Brewing, we had an Octoberfest here, which is a challenge with COVID but we were all able to think how to do it safely and we all had a great day so I look forward to more events like that,” Hunhoff said.

“I’ve actually talked to Empower, which is a local gym here about doing some collaborative things with them and we’ve spoke to both of the breweries in town about doing things with them so we are always looking to get together in some way,” Soukup said.

Something these businesses are glad to be a part of.

“I think it’s awesome, I think everyone supports everyone, we are really happy to be a part of it, both Lauren and I grew up in this area and so for us it’s extra special,” Nino said.

“Really shows that we have the support and that Yankton is ready for these types of businesses, whether it’s the boutiques or the restaurants, and I think it shows that the organizations around us work,” Hunhoff said.

Wenande says the stores remain optimistic going into the summer, but does understand there are some businesses still facing challenges.