Standing the test of time – Hines General Store

    Hines General Store before the new highway – h/t Hines Family

    It’s the iconic business on the highway from Lander to Dubois. What started as only one store has grown into Hines General Store and just a few yards to the north, the Wind River Trading Company.

    The store and trading post, located on the south side of Ft. Washakie, has served the people of the Wind River Reservation since 1946, and it remains the largest private, non-energy employer on the entire reservation.

    Paul and Peg Hines – h/t Hines Family

    Paul and Marjorie “Peg” Hines purchased the store from Wes Croskey soon after Paul returned from World War II.  He served in the Pacific as a Navy Corpsman attached to Marine combat units.

    The post-war period was epic for small rural stores with similar businesses springing up from Hell’s Half Acre to Dubois. The Hines General Store is one of the few that has survived the whims of economic turmoil. It remains a viable institution serving the people of Fremont County.

    A receipt book from the early days – h/t Hines Family

    Peg came from Massachusetts to work as a field nurse at Ft. Washakie.

    Paul, originally from Pennsylvania, was working as a baggage handler at the Arapaho Train Station when the couple met. She was on a return trip from her childhood home in Massachusetts.

    Paul’s mother, Llewellyn, at one time was the editor of the Wyoming State Journal newspaper in Lander.

    The couple took the original store and built a business that is the envy of rural stores across the nation.

    Dave and Ben Hines, owners of Hines General Store – h/t Randy Tucker

    Two generations later, their grandsons, Dave and Ben Hines incorporated the business and own the General Store and Trading Company under the DBH Corporation and the Western America Development Corporation.

    They’ve come a long way since the small general store opened. Suppliers were originally local. They offered milk from Cream of Weber in Lander, delivered by Rick Bourne, and Sweetheart bread delivered from Riverton by Wally West. For a long time, they received their groceries and produce from Associated Foods in Billings.

    The Olson Dairy of Lander delivered milk, cheese and butter to the Hines General Store – h/t Hines Family

    When Associated Foods centralized to Salt Lake City they planned to stop services to smaller stores across the region.

    “When they moved to Salt Lake, they wanted to cut out the Haslam’s at the Crowheart Store,” Dave said. “We said keep them or lose us.”

    Associated kept its contract with the Crowheart Store.

    A Tribal Fishing Permit issued in 1955 and signed by Paul Hines – h/t Hines Family

    “We are the oldest Associated Foods store in Wyoming,” Dave said.

    The facilities are modern, with a state-of-the-art kitchen, chillers, freezers, and modern lighting.

    An ample produce section at Hines – h/t Randy Tucker

    Dave is a 1986 graduate of Lander Valley High School. Ben graduated from Lander in 1990 and then went to the University of Wyoming where he completed an electrical engineering degree in 1996.

    “I do as much of the IT work as I can,” Ben said.

    Ben also keeps the books for both businesses.

    Changes from the original small store to the modern complex today were gradual with a major expansion when Don and Sharon Hines took over the store from Paul and Peg in 1963. The biggest changes came with a construction project in 1978.

    The Sacajawea Service Station soon after it was built – h/t Hines Family

    In the early years, Paul and Hub remained partners, selling just about anything that could make a profit.

    “They’d sell bales of hay, cinder blocks, salt blocks, and dam canvas,” Dave said. “Hub sold clothing and western apparel. Dad sold meat, fresh produce, clothing, guns, ammunition, Wind River Tribal fishing licenses, and ag supplies.

    Paul and Hub worked well together.

    A receipt for an account at Hub Cramer’s Sacajawea Service Station 1953 – h/t Hines Family

    Soon after Don and Sharon took over the store in 1963, Don’s brother Bill took over Hub’s Sacajawea Service Station in 1965.

    Community service is as much a part of Hines’ story as is making a profit.

    The Sacajawea Service Station – – h/t Hines Family

    Dave spoke of his grandfather’s community service, “He was always trying to help the community. He had the opportunity to have the post office in the store. He thought the tribe should have it.”

    Hub Kramer’s wife, Charlotte, was the Tribal Agency secretary. Part of her job was determining who was on the Shoshone Tribal rolls after a fire destroyed the records at Ft. Washakie.

    Canned goods section of Hines General Store 1968 – – h/t Hines Family
    The refrigerated section 1968 – h/t Hines Family
    Frozen foods in the original store 1968 – h/t Hines Family

    “She was fixing the books after the fire and asked my grandpa Paul if he wanted to be on the rolls,” Dave said. “He said no.”

    After his sons took over the store and the adjacent Sacajawea Service Station, Paul became more involved in civic activities in Fremont County and statewide.

    He was on the Central Wyoming College Foundation board with Bob Peck and Joe Jirard. They were part of the drive to create a community college in Riverton and their work came to fruition in 1966 with the opening of CWC.

    Don Hines working on forms 1978 – – h/t Hines Family

    Paul also served on the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees. He also served on the Ft. Washakie Board of Trustees and was active in the creation of many initiatives in the community.

    The work at the store and station remained with Don and Bill and their wives, Sharon and Mary.

    They made minor changes and then began a major renovation in 1978.

    The renovation created the present-day infrastructure. They built the General Store and remodeled the gas station with additional construction to create the present-day Wind River Trading Company.

    The support columns go up in 1978 – h/t Hines Family

    They opened the new store in September 1978.

    “The Atlantic City bank building used to be in part of the store,” Ben said.

    The renovation was a success. The General Store was first located in the Trading Company building but eventually, the store moved into the new building and the gift shop took the building.

    Ben and Dave took over the operation in 2004 after working for their mother and father for many years.

    The Hines General Store Staff – Jessica Trosper, Eli Shoyo, Myron Bishop, Gordon Hines, Rae Herbert – h/t Randy Tucker

    “I went away for a year when my dad and I didn’t get along,” Dave said. “My dad and grandpa had their disagreements too.”

    Operating a rural store is a daily grind broken up by occasional events outside of the norm.

    In 1986, vandals broke through the front door, found the safe, and got away with $10,000 in the middle of the night.

    “They hauled the safe to the back of the store and pried it open with a crowbar,” Ben said.

    A prosperous business serving the people of the Wind River Indian Reservation – h/t Randy Tucker

    The criminals also hit the Kinnear Store before heading west.

    Fremont County Sheriff Tim McKinney and Bureau of Indian Affairs criminal investigator Dick Ferris thoroughly searched for clues but found no leads.

    A break came a few weeks later in Riverside, California after a routine traffic stop. The Riverside police found a bag from First Wyoming Bank in the van the criminals were riding in.

    The money was gone. The $10,000 is worth about $28,000 today, a sizeable loss for the store. Losing that much money was bad enough, but their grandmother Peg’s wedding ring was in the safe and it was never recovered.

    To make matters worse, their insurance company refused to honor their policy.

    “We were screwed by the insurance company,” Ben said.

    The issue came down to the type of safe they had in the store.

    “They said it wasn’t a vault, just a fireproof safe, and refused to pay,” Dave said.

    Paul didn’t make the same mistake again. He set the new safe in concrete, with the only access through the top door protected with a combination lock.

    They never had another break-in with the safe.

    With Ben and Dave taking ownership and management of the store and gift shop the business thrived.

    Deli manager Courtney Logan with Byron Killsree and Paul Blackbear Jr. – h/t Randy Tucker

    The COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge.

    “We went right along,” Dave said. “We could see the fear in the eyes of our customers when they came into the store.”

    COVID 19 was especially deadly to Native Americans and the fear was real.

    “We were in a quagmire, what would we do if we got it?” Dave said. “With Ben’s technical knowledge, he could have run the store from home. We were blessed to have a great staff.

    The shortages that every grocery and big box store faced across the nation had an impact on Hines General Store as well.

    “We made it through the shortages,” Ben said. “Toilet paper was the big one, we’d break up 12 and 24 packs so everyone could get some.”

    In a surreal example of state interference a store in Gillette that was breaking up toilet paper was investigated by the state of Wyoming.

    “I would have loved to get a call from them,” Ben said.

    The store currently has a staff of 22.

    “We’ve got a good core group of people,” Dave said.

    Dave Hines, Ben Hines, Rita Weinberger, Crystal Peahora and Amanda Phillips in front of the Wind River Trading Company – h/t Randy Tucker

    Myron Bishop is their store manager and Rita Weinberger manages the gift shop.

    Rose Norris manages the bakery, one of the most popular features of the store to the early morning crowd.

    People often complain about grocery store prices, but to be competitive with nearby stores in Riverton and Lander, Hines has met the challenge.

    Dave often checks the prices in other rural stores and smaller towns.

    Local artists sell at the Wind River Trading Company – h/t Hines Family

    “Being the only store in town often gets the reputation of being too high,” Dave said. “Dubois has that reputation, but their prices are fair when I get there.”

    The Wind River Trading Company has a wide variety of Native American items. Jewelry, coats, artwork, bead work, clothing, and shoes fill the store.

    The busiest season for the gift shop comes in the summer tourist rush to Yellowstone, but they sell a lot of items to locals.

    “We try to feature as many locally made items as we can find,” Dave said.

    Pendelton blankets and coats are extremely popular.

    A wide selection of clothing at the Wind River Trading Company – h/t Hines Family

    “The gift shop is the oldest Pendelton dealer in Wyoming,” Dave said.

    As the store approaches its 80th anniversary, the interior design continues to improve with high-quality milk, meat, and produce, along with household items in the tradition of the general store that started the business.

    The Wind River Trading Company is very popular with tourists and features many one-of-a-kind items.

    The brothers have faced many challenges after taking over the store, and their success is a testament to the hard work of their parents, grandparents, and their own sweat equity.

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