LUSK – “At my age, if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you should not be doing it,” laughed Vicki Boldon, owner of Hometown Country. Boldon has worked to fill needs in the community while continuing to like what she does.
August will mark the end of Hometown Country’s 31st year in business. The store, which includes a greenhouse, custom sewing, Carhartt apparel and several goods made in the U.S., originated as a t-shirt shop.
When Boldon bought the store in 1990, she said it was primarily a t-shirt shop with some crafting and consignment items.
“It’s just evolved, basically,” she said. “It’s more of an answer to what customers need.”
Boldon said she moved to Lusk around 1976 when she and her husband were newly married. Her husband, Clay, started a plumbing business in town. While their kids were growing up, Boldon did licensed childcare.
“I was able to be home with them and have a business at the same time,” she said.
In 1990, she had the opportunity to buy Hometown Country and has since developed it, based on customer need.
“We don’t think anybody should buy something and then take it home and have to do something with it. It should just be ready to wear,” Boldon.
Though she charges to alter clothes that are brought in, when a customer buys an item at Hometown Country, Boldon said she takes the extra step to make sure it fits them well, free of cost.
“I’ve been sewing my whole life,” she said. Boldon took textile classes in college and, upon moving to Lusk, did alterations for the existing five or six clothing stores.
Boldon said she still enjoys sewing, especially working on wedding and bridesmaid dresses.
“I like bringing someone else’s dream to light,” she said.
Boldon also said she loves making clothing for children.
“No matter what you put on a little kid, it’s going to be cute,” she said.
Hometown Country is a kid-friendly store, said Boldon, as her grandkids occasionally help out.
“And that child of the customer is my next generation of customers, so if they have a good experience then it’s better for their parents,” she said.
Boldon’s handmade apparel business is called Clearly Classic Designs. She said custom work is not always as expensive as people think, as she finds ways to work with customers within their budget.
“We all, no matter our size or our sex, have fitting issues,” Boldon said. “We also have ideas about what we like and what we don’t.”
Boldon also provides tux rentals, makes custom dresses and does alterations for prom.
“There’s really no reason for people to have to settle,” she said. “Usually, we can alter whatever they have and make it to their taste and needs.”
Hometown Country’s greenhouse started in 1991. Initially, Boldon said she purchased plants from a couple growers. Not long after, though, she started planting and growing at the store.
“It’s a huge part of my business and it grows and develops every year,” Boldon said.
Boldon said she started planting because it has let her be more responsive to what a customer wants. It allows her to offer a wider variety of products without having to buy in bulk.
“The amount of sales that I do in the greenhouse in about two months is probably easily a third of my total sales,” she said. Boldon starts working in the greenhouse in November to have plants ready to be sold in May.
The decision to start selling Carhartt apparel about ten years ago stemmed from customer need.
“There was very little in Lusk for men,” she said. Hometown Country now orders from Carhartt every week.
For the rest of the store, Boldon said they try to focus more on items made in the U.S. or made in Wyoming.
Boldon said she frequently has tourists visiting her store, so she carries some items that are customized to represent Lusk.
“No matter what part of my business it is, its just about serving the customer and fulfilling their needs,” Boldon said.
“It’s just very natural to want to do a good job for someone,” she said.
Boldon likes the sense of community in Lusk and being able to support people’s needs outside of her work too. Boldon said community members know when good or bad things are happening in each other’s lives.
“You don’t have to fix it. But you can support them,” she said. “You know what their needs might be.”
Said she has also enjoyed seeing her own an others’ kids go through the school system and become responsible adults.
Boldon is passionate about supporting local businesses. She thinks many people don’t realize the impact on Lusk’s infrastructure when they put their money into a large city for groceries and shopping. Boldon said sometimes people don’t think about how shopping locally is what keeps those local businesses available and open for people who are not able to frequent other towns and cities.
“When you take money from our community and spend it in another community, that’s sales tax revenue that our community doesn’t get,” she said.
Boldon said she likes to talk with customers and community members about needs that aren’t being met in Lusk.
“If we know, as businesspeople, what people are looking for that we don’t have, maybe we can fulfill that need,” Boldon said.
When she’s not at work, Boldon said she catches up with household chores, gardens, reads and loves to see her grandkids often.
Currently, greenhouse season is starting to wind down, so Boldon is getting back to work on alterations.
“Today I’m altering a pair of jeans that are about two inches too big for a girl, so she can get some use out of those,” she said.
Boldon said she enjoys every day.
“There are things that you don’t like to do as much, but they are a part of it,” she said, giving the examples of cleaning the bathroom and washing windows.
Her perspective on enjoying life came largely from an incident involving her health.
“I’ve gotten an extra five years out of life at this point, so every day’s a gift,” she said.
Boldon said the end of June marks five years of living with a brain aneurysm.
On a seemly normal day, Boldon said she blacked out after supper and woke up three days later in the hospital. She spent several weeks in Swedish Medical Center’s ICU, where they found Boldon had an aneurysm.
“They’ve been in my brain now three times – I have a bunch of metal up there,” she said.
According to Boldon, if people survive a similar experience, usually the effects are similar to that of having a stroke.
“You don’t know what will happen,” she said, there had been no indication she had an issue in her brain. So far, Boldon said there are no more surgeries needed.
After about two months of recovery, Boldon was able to get back to working her normal hours.
“I do take things a little bit slower, occasionally I do tell someone no,” she said. “Any of us at any time could have something happen. Life is good just to wake up every morning.”
Though Boldon said she has a few ideas of her own, the future of Hometown Country will be customer driven.
“They’re the reason I’m here,” she said.
When asked about retirement, Boldon said, “as long as I like what I’m doing, I have every intention of continuing to do it.”