Dickinson is a community changing so rapidly it’s almost to the point where it’s difficult to know exactly what is going where. Seemingly every day, a new building or business pops up.
The city has never been stagnant, however. In my short lifetime, I’ve seen a variety of changes.
I remember eating at Skippers and Sergios, going to Anfinsons for farm — and, as a kid, toy — needs, while shopping for groceries at Buttrey’s and going to Woolworths downtown, where my prime enjoyment came from getting to ride the escalator.
We’ve changed so rapidly over the past two-and-a-half decades that it’s amazing to sit back and realize that most of the businesses in town have held steady through one oil boom and bust, and now many are thriving like never before thanks to the latest boom.
The best example may be the oldest restaurant in town, Jack’s Family Restaurant.
Proprietors Jack and Carrie Wandler celebrated their 42nd anniversary at the establishment they opened on Sunday — the same day as their youngest son, Jay, was born.
No other diner, restaurant or café even comes close to that longevity, regardless of if it has been under one or a series of owners.
“They come and they go,” Jack said of other restaurants.
Meanwhile, Jack’s remains a family owned and operated staple of the community. Known for its pressure-fried chicken, borscht and knoephla soup, Jack’s has been featured in the Washington Post and on Good Morning America. Yet somehow it remains Dickinson’s most low-key eatery.
Despite being open only five days a week — they stay closed on Monday and Tuesday to restock and recharge — Jack said Wednesday that his sales are up 25 percent over a year ago.
“We’re continuously climbing,” he said.
He attributes that to Oil Patch newcomers looking for a more relaxed setting and home cooking instead of the tiring set of chain restaurants and fast-food joints.
“People are looking for family places,” Jack said. “They’re not all excited about these chains. I’ve found that out in the last few years.”
Unfortunately, outside of some industrial services, banks and car dealerships, there aren’t many businesses in Dickinson that have been around as long as Jack’s. While that’s a little unsettling, we all know business can be fickle and several here didn’t survive the early ’80s oil bust.
So, are there any new businesses in the same mindset as Jack’s?
Are there many who want to be remembered for creating a good product and treating customers well? How many are in it to make a quick buck and put customers on an assembly line in and out the door?
With all that is happening in Dickinson, we’re about to find out. Let’s just hope there are a few more places like Jack’s out there. We could sure use them.