7 ou don ’ t have to be from a small town to run a successful
Ybusiness in Custer . All you need
is a dream and a plan . Or , in the case of The Custer Beacon , a dream , somewhat of a plan and a whole lot of compromise .
Julie Oswald and her two sons , Charley and Louis Umbarger , have transformed a 5,600-square-foot industrial warehouse into the most happening spot in the City of Custer , and did so through their desire to work together , a crash course in a variety of skills needed to run the business and the aforementioned compromise .
Before The Custer Beacon was born in the summer of 2018 , the three owners discussed what they could do to go into business together . All they really knew is what they didn ’ t want to do .
Charley , who was living in the south of France , didn ’ t want to come to South Dakota . Louis , who lived in Portland , Ore ., was dead set against owning a restaurant . Julie , the mom , had only one rule for opening a business : No bars .
How ’ s this for compromise ? The Custer Beacon is a bar and a restaurant , and all three now call Custer home .
The Custer Beacon is so much more than that , however . It ’ s one of the area ’ s most well-known concert venues , born of humble roots that trace back to the summer of 2018 when the three hastily threw a concert in the building , which at one time served as industrial storage .
The three hastily put together a stage , located sound equipment and ran extension cords through the rafters of the building to the one working outlet .
Flash forward to the present , and the Beacon is a stylish , modern “ third space ” that draws musical acts — and customers — from around the region .
It draws business from the entire Black Hills , Wyoming and Nebraska , as Custer remains a top destination for visitors .
“ We ’ ve tried to market to that road trip clientele : people who want to bring the whole family , the dog , stretch their legs and have a bit to eat ,” Louis said . “ Everything that The Beacon has become is different from what we thought it would look like , but it ’ s still serving the initial vision of what this space could be in Custer . It has blown away my expectations .”
Now , The Beacon is a place someone can grab a beer , a variety of food , a latte , catch a concert , throw bean bags , sit on a couch and work on their laptop , sit next to a fire pit with friends , attend / host a fundraiser and so much more .
“ We watched Custer grow more and more and right in these last few years it just seemed the time was right to make moves to establish something here ,” Louis said . “ It just made sense because Custer was always in our family growing up . Why not make the place you love even better ?”
Louis said part of the benefit of operating a business in town is how supportive the town is of local businesses and the fun snapshot it provides as people of all walks of life come through the doors .
“ You really get to participate in the city on more levels than just selling beer and putting on shows . The way we have built it allows us to participate in things that reach way beyond what we are capable of ,” he said . “ There has been enormous support for what we are trying to do here . It ’ s been great .”
Louis said there was initial apprehension among the three partners about diving into the business world in Custer , but they quickly found there is more potential energy for any kind of business to grow in Custer than meets the eye .
“ It ’ s becoming more and more obvious Custer is ready for all kinds of growth ,” Louis said . “ We have a really strong community of people from all over the world .”
Custer isn ’ t just some small “ podunk ” Midwestern town with nothing going on . It offers a thriving business scene and The Custer Beacon is yet more proof of that . It continues to grow with Custer .
“ People come from all over the world to be here , and people who live here have been all over the world ,” Louis said . “ They live here for a reason : it ’ s beautiful , sustainable and it nourishes you if you play your cards right .”