Inside the Tourism Industry – PT 3

Travel matters – tourism affects our whole community. Your vacation actually impacts more than you may realize, from supporting local jobs and attractions to bringing money into local businesses.

The Stagecoach is very familiar with the tourism industry and looks forward to travelers walking through their door each year. This summer is going to be extra exciting as they are one of the stops on the Nebraska Passport. When owners Gary and Susan found out they were selected as part of the Passport program they were thrilled! They were so excited they begin making engraved wooden ornaments to give as a keepsake to Passport visitors.

A little history, Stagecoach itself began in 1973 when Gary’s parents built a shop north of the I-80 corridor in Kearney Nebraska. At that time, there were few other businesses around them, just a gas station and a couple of hotels with hopes that Nebraska tourism would prosper. Today, Kearney has grown tremendously and they are surrounded by thriving hotels and restaurants. What a difference 40 years makes!

The exterior has that historic charm and inside you will find so many treasures! Along with many gifts and souvenirs, the Stagecoach has become the premier retailer in Nebraska for Native American Turquoise jewelry. Many of the pieces have been Nebraska-made by owner Gary, right here in Kearney. Stagecoach is also Kearney’s largest rock shop and has a wonderful selection of stones and minerals.

Susan showing me new feather earrings made by owner Gary

I interviewed owners Gary and Susan to find out just how much tourism impacts their business and what this industry mean to them and their business.

What role does tourism play in your job/business?
Tourism plays a big role in what we do here at Stagecoach. Because we are located near I-80 we get lots of travelers who are staying here overnight or just need a break from driving. These people are always looking for interesting things to see and do around town and shopping is often a top priority. We always try to think about products that travelers will enjoy and that represent our state well. Kearney has done a great job promoting the Sandhill Crane migration and we see a lot of visitors during that time period. This is something that seems to grow every year and we spend a significant amount of time preparing for it.

How many years have you been working as a business owner/in tourism?
This is our 46th year at the Stagecoach. My parents started the business in 1973 and I joined shortly after. Before that, my grandparents had a souvenir shop called “The Wigwam” in Atlanta, Nebraska. They ran that since the 1950’s. My son is planning to continue the business and will be the fourth generation in the tourism industry.

Stagecoach is creating custom gifts to their unique selection of products

What makes Kearney such a great destination to visit?
Kearney and the surrounding area have a wide range of attractions and events that appeal to a variety of different people. They include the Car Museum, Trails and Rails Museum, Pioneer Village, The Archway, MONA, and many others. There is always lots to see and do in this town. Furthermore, Kearney is a bright, clean community and is able to accommodate lots of travelers.

What do you like to do in Kearney when you aren’t working?
I really enjoy taking advantage of Kearney’s robust walking trail system. These trails, as well as the connecting parks, are varied and always clean. I see lots of people utilizing these trails around town.

What is your favorite summer activity?
Summer is a busy season for us at Stagecoach but when I do have time I like to walk and visit the parks. This year we are part of the Nebraska Passport program so I plan to spend some time exploring the other Passport stops around the area, like Andrew’s Garden and others.

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink in town?
The wide selection of restaurants that Kearney has to offer is another wonderful quality of our community. It’s difficult to name just one favorite restaurant but if I had to I would probably say Sozo. They always have a menu full of unique and fresh options. I’ve never had something that I did not enjoy there.

What is one thing you have to pack when you go on vacation?
The most important thing for me to pack is a comfortable pair of walking shoes. When we travel we like to pack as much into a day as possible. So having comfortable shoes is very important.