January 07, 2020
As 2019 comes to an end, I can’t help reflecting on the past twelve months and everything we have been through at Stagecoach. It has been a very interesting year full of ups and downs. For me at least, it seems like the downs always stick to my memory more than the ups. That being said, it has been a positive year overall, albeit one that has tested our conviction a few times. I suspect when I look back in ten or twenty years, 2019 will stand out in my memory, for better or worse.
The Nebraska Passport program is put on by the Nebraska Tourism Commission. To be brief, participants go to any of the 70 stops around the state and collect passport stamps. Prizes are won once you hit enough of these stops. In its tenth year, the program continues to grow. According to the Nebraska Tourism Commission, app accounts grew by 22.5% this year. Thousands of people trek across the state collecting these stamps and there were participants from 37 different states. This program is great for everyone involved. Individuals can participate without spending anything, have the chance to win fun prizes, and get the opportunity to see all sorts of fascinating locations around Nebraska that they maybe would not have otherwise known about. For businesses and attractions, it can draw thousands of new faces to their locations. It is a wonderful opportunity to share their stories and passion with lots of different people. I commend the Nebraska Tourism Commission for their success with the Passport Program. It really benefits everyone involved all throughout the state.
We had applied for the Passport program for at least five years. Applications are sent out in November or December and spots are chosen early the following year. It can be tough to be selected as a stop because there are normally only one or two stops in any given location. When we were told that Stagecoach had been chosen for 2019 we were very excited. I started designing a giveaway Christmas ornament for every Passport participant who stopped. While very time-consuming, this was something special that set us apart from the other stops. Unfortunately, I don’t have an exact number of how many ornaments I created but I would peg it somewhere around 1500. This took in excess of 60 hours designing, cutting, and engraving. Our original plan was to engrave people’s names on them while they waited. However, I quickly realized that this would not be feasible. Engraving one person’s name might take around ten minutes but people often came in groups of three or more. We ended up ditching this plan and just stuck to giving out the pre-made ornaments. It was honestly interesting to gauge the different reactions from people that we gave these ornaments out to. There were, of course, some who were pretty indifferent, but, overall I think most people were genuinely thankful to receive them. A number of people were ecstatic and told us that it was even better than the prizes that they received for participating. I was very grateful for this, considering the amount of time that went into making all of them.
The Nebraska Passport program was very successful for us. We had a lot of people stop by and were pleasantly surprised that most took some time to look around. At one point, Stagecoach had the most visitors of any of the 70 different stops. It was a lot of fun and kept us very busy. While we were preparing for the program to begin in May, all of us thought that this would be the defining event of our summer tourist season. That was until July 9th.
On the morning of July 9th, everything seemed normal. We opened at our normal time and experienced a busier-than-normal first hour with lots of travelers from out of state. Then around 10 a.m., everything changed. Seeing water trickle down the street was merely puzzling at first. As the water grew with each passing minute, so did our alarm. Soon a frenzy of activity erupted with people hurrying to leave the area and police officers warning us about the rising waters. My mother, father, and I flew into action, rushing to get as much as possible off the ground. I was literally running as fast as I could through rising water carrying large boxes full of merchandise. We had about one hour to save as much as possible. By the time the electricity was cut and we finally evacuated, I was exhausted and terribly sore. My parents and I worked as hard and fast as we could, but it wasn’t enough.
The Kearney flood was probably the most terrible moment of my life. When we left that day we had no idea when we would be able to return or what there would be left to return to. I would be lying if I told you that I was confident that we would reopen. None of us had ever experienced a flood before and we did not know how long the water would last or what, if any, structural damage would occur. As we slowly hiked out through knee-high water, the store that my grandparents started, that my parents made flourish, and that I had hoped to continue, seemed in great jeopardy. It was a terrifying experience that I will never forget.
Through the flood, we lost thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. We also spent thousands more on cleanup and restoration. For me personally, the single most heart-breaking item lost was our nice DSLR camera and lens collection that I used to take jewelry pictures for our website. There was so much more lost though, an unbelievable amount that I hate to think about. However, this story of loss is also a story of perseverance. The three of us were joined by three employees and other friends and family in a monumental effort to get Stagecoach reopened. We laughed and cried together as we worked horribly long hours doing jobs that none of us signed up for. None of these people were asked to work under these conditions. They did so because they truly care about Stagecoach. I am forever in their debt and the outreach of support from the community of Kearney meant the world to us. There were so many others who helped in ways beyond physically cleaning. We still receive questions almost daily about the flood and appreciation that we survived. Thank you, Kearney, for your concern, support, and love.
If you would like to read more about our story from the Kearney Flood you can read my full article from July.
Gary Glandon's Handmade Jewelry
Something that has helped Stagecoach endure through 46 years is the numerous things that we offer that cannot be found elsewhere in Kearney. One of these unique things is the beautiful silver and gold jewelry that my father, Gary, handmakes right here at Stagecoach. He was taught by Native American jewelry artists many years ago and his pieces are unlike anything else you can find in Kearney, if not the entire state of Nebraska. He uses high-grade turquoise and other stones that he gets straight from the miners. While this was not new for 2019, Gary found a few new stones that customers have really loved.
One of these new stones was Seven Dwarfs Turquoise. This is believed to be a turquoise and variscite mix and it always has a really unique look. There isn’t a lot of this material out there, but almost all of the stones that I have seen have brown coloring blended with splotches of light blue. It has a lot of contrast and every stone is very different. It is named Seven Dwarfs Turquoise because people claim that they can see faces in the stones. These faces are associated with the Seven Dwarfs digging away in their mines, perhaps hunting for turquoise. Gary got just a few of these stones that he made into jewelry, all of which have been purchased. There are a few people who have expressed an interest in a piece of Seven Dwarfs Turquoise of their own. Gary is going to try finding some more of this beautiful stone but has so far been unsuccessful. What little he has found just hasn’t been quite up to his standards. We will continue searching and, with a little luck, hopefully, we will be able to find more Seven Dwarfs Turquoise.
The other major new stone that Gary used was White Lightning. This is a brand new form of White Buffalo that has sharp white lines resembling lightning bolts. We first found this stone when we met with one of the members of the Otteson family of turquoise miners. We were picking out some regular White Buffalo stones when he pulled out a tray of this new material. That was the first time it had been shown and he didn’t even have it out on display yet. It could be said that Gary, and the subsequent customers who nabbed his jewelry, were some of the very first to be able to own White Lightning. You don’t often get the chance to be the first to own a new stone!
Read more about White Lightning jewelry in our blog post written immediately after we obtained these beautiful stones.
At this point, Gary wishes that he had gotten more White Lightning stones. It was so popular that we actually had a waiting list of people wanting to get their hands on the finished pieces. We had sent a few pictures of some of the White Lightning jewelry to one lady on this list. By the time she responded the following day, all of these had already gone out the door. Needless to say, all of our White Buffalo jewelry has been super popular. I suspect Gary will again try to get more of these stones. Of course, it all depends on what the Otteson's have when we see them next. Who knows, maybe there will be something else new that we decide to invest in. All in all, both the White Lightning and the Seven Dwarfs Turquoise are unusual stones that are difficult to find. We are really proud to be able to offer these exclusive stones in jewelry that is handmade right here in Kearney, NE.
This covers most of the major events going on at Stagecoach during the past year. As I said, it was a very interesting year full of ups and downs. 2019 included the direst moment that I am aware of over our 46-year history. It also included lots of wonderful moments, with new faces and friends. Let me take this moment to personally thank you. We love what we do and have a real passion for handmade jewelry. That being said, Stagecoach could not exist without you. Your support means everything to us, through good times and bad. Whether you live in the Kearney area and stop in to see us or just browse through our website from time to time, your support helps us do what we do. Gary, Susan, Skylar, and everyone else at Stagecoach sincerely hope that you will continue to join us through 2020 and beyond.
Happy New Year from all of your friends at Stagecoach!
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