Small Business is Big Business in Thayer County
19 Nov 2021
News, Success Stories
Hello, Blue Bison!
Since 2011, November has been recognized as National Entrepreneurs’ Month in the United States. A month to celebrate the success of entrepreneurs as well as their courage and hard work in becoming entrepreneurs. We are so honored that Thayer County has such a selection we’re acknowledging two in our Small Business is Big Business series. First up is Blue Bison!
The Blue Bison has so many facets to its story, from starting a business to fill a local need to renovating an older downtown building to multi-generational owners. All of these pieces build a story that TCEDA wants to celebrate - that you have the permission to create the future and the business that you want, right here in Thayer County.
Located in downtown Hebron, Blue Bison is a family-owned and operated, family-style restaurant with a very warm and inviting atmosphere. They serve breakfast and lunch with plans to expand into evening hours. From coffee-related drinks, smoothies & salads, burgers & beer - food and fellowship are Blue Bison’s business done well. We had a chat with a Blue Bison family member about the success of their business, and here’s what they had to say.
Being a family-owned and operated business, which family members work at Blue Bison?
- Blue Bison is owned by Rick and Deb Gillham, who partnered with their daughter Hannah and son-in-law Chris. When Rick isn’t playing cribbage with Hebron locals, he is the CEO and assists with grilling and dish duty. Deb manages day-to-day operations as well as assisting with kitchen and meal prep. Chris prepares breakfast and noon meals, along with creating new sandwich combinations! Hannah waitresses, makes and creates drinks from specialty coffees to smoothies, assists with day-to-day operations including marketing tasks and covers the ice cream side of Blue Bison. Other family members, Bo and Tara (son and daughter of Rick and Deb) also assist when able with grilling, food prep, and serving. It truly is a family affair.
Why did Blue Bison choose Thayer County and when did you first open?
- Deb and Rick Gillham have been residents of Thayer County since 2005. Soon after moving to Hebron from Grand Island, they opened a luncheonette called Hannah B’s. After approximately ten years, it was becoming more than they imagined and decided to sell the business. About two years ago, Hannah was a traveling registered nurse ready to pursue other career options. She convinced her parents to begin this journey, re-opening an eatery in Hebron. Thayer County was the perfect location, and you couldn’t ask for a better community!
How did Blue Bison come to be named Blue Bison?
- It was hard for the family to agree on a name. We would often send names out in a group text message and Rick was notorious for replying with, “Keep thinking!” One day, while we were working and brainstorming, Pastor Jeff Friesen came in. The men got to talking about the Little Blue River, where our family spends lots of time fishing and kayaking. That conversation led to something along the lines of the last herd of buffalo or bison following the Oregon Trail along the Little Blue River. During that conversation, someone threw out the name, “Blue Bison.” Of course, not everyone was a fan of it at first. However, that evening, Chris went home and designed the logo. From there, it just took off and felt right!
In this technological era, why doesn’t Blue Bison have a website?
- A website is something that may come in the near future. However, we do have a Facebook page and are very active in keeping it current and updated!
Scrolling through your Facebook pictures, I saw renovations. Are your renovations complete and if not, when will they be? After renovations, any plans for Blue Bison’s future?
- Most of our renovations are finished in terms of the restaurant side of the building. There are a few changes we need to make, per the State Fire Marshal, that are still in progress but will be completed in the near future. We do have a back room and our plan is to convert it into a “party” or conference room for businesses to use/host meetings, if needed, in a more private setting.
Why do you think Blue Bison was well-received when you opened and is still so loved by the community?
- We believe that my parents worked extremely hard and built an exceptional reputation with their previous eatery that when it came time to announce the opening of Blue Bison, the community was thrilled. During the renovation and planning phase, the recommendation to put in a restaurant was all too often mentioned by the people of Hebron and surrounding communities.
Is there anything you would like the community to know that wasn’t addressed?
- The restaurant business is hard, extremely difficult at times, then add a pandemic on top of that equation! We would like to thank the community and surrounding areas for all of the support through this journey. We SO appreciate each and every customer that walks through our doors. Often our customers become more like family and we cherish the moments and memories that continue to be made at Blue Bison. Family is the best ingredient to making this restaurant a success!
As November continues, your TCEDA team wants to celebrate and thank all of the small businesses that make Thayer County unique and worth a scenic drive to visit.
If you have a business idea you are ready to invest in or a business you’d like to relocate to Thayer County, contact us to learn and discuss our opportunities for new businesses. Come join us here in the good life and thrive in Thayer County.