It's not just anywhere the opening of a convenience store brings an entire town to a standstill, but that was the case Friday in Chapman.The Pump & Pantry is the only store in a town of less that 300 people.
Even classes were put on hold, as school secretary Rhonda Husmann cut the ceremonial ribbon. She was all smiles as she said, "This is awesome, the kids have been so excited but I don't think as excited as I have been." That's because Rhonda can't start her work day until she's had her Diet Coke.
But an accident sparked a fire, destroying the store last May. Only two volunteer firefighters were in town. Rhonda knew them both -- one was her school custodian, the other was a father of kids in the school.
She knew it was bad. "We were here within three minutes probably, check it out, because we couldn't believe it," she said. Chapman's only a dozen miles from Grand Island, but the round trip adds up for those who just need to get a gallon of gas or milk. "It does," she said. "It takes a lot of time out of your day."
That was the reaction the head of the family owned company based in Grand Island heard from many. Charlie Bosselman said, "I heard a lot of people – we have to drive 15, 20 minutes to get anything" Teachers took turns bringing pop to school for Rhonda.
That's why Charlie Bosselman says they like towns like this, even as they expand with new stores in Omaha and Lincoln. "That's really our philosophy – we're from here, family company from a small town and we like to carry that over as much as possible," he said. It's the debut of the Bosselman Company's new "hometown" store concept, with more food choices and a seating area.
And yes, Diet Coke.
Standing amidst snow flurries on a blustery day, Rhonda held a poster that all the school kids had signed, with a simple message, "We're pumped you're back."
The store also furthers the integration of Danger Football within the Bosselman family of companies.
The mascot "Bones" is now the face of Pump & Pantry, and the team begins its third season next week.