History of the Cooke City Store continued ...
In January, 1909, Nels became postmaster for Cooke City. In the winter, mail was brought by another postal employee from Nye (40 miles north) on skis to a cabin near Lake Abundance where Soderholm had skied Daisy Pass to deliver and retrieve the mail. The money earned the Soderholms from the postal work enabled them to remodel the front room of the second story in their store into an apartment. While the Cooke City Store added new lines to its expanding inventory and continued to prosper, early in 1911 the Allison Mercantile Company went bankrupt. Many of the fixtures that had originally been put into the Cooke City Store when Allison had occupied it were then sold to Soderholm at a sheriff's sale and placed back in the store. In anticipation of the auto tourist industry, Nels Soderholm purchased a bulk fuel tank and hauled gasoline to a Conoco station which he operated adjacent to the store. The interior of the building was modernized by the replacement of the original gas lighting system with two Kohler diesel light plants, and by the addition of a water storage locker and septic tank.
In the summer of 1938, the Soderholm's nephew Sam Brady came to work at the store. Sam had lived with his family on an early-day Montana homestead in the Shields Valley. Nels Soderholm died in 1939, and Same helped his Aunt Lizzy off and on during the busy summer seasons for the next decade, deciding to work at the store on a year-round basis in 1949. When Mrs. Soderholm's eyesight and general health forced her to retreat to the low-country, Sam took over full operation of the store in October of 1957. The early years were lean and hard. Winter heating needs required the carrying of coal from the basement to the main floor and upstairs, and on particularly cold nights the pipes would freeze and break. After several years of waging this battle, Sam installed a new, low ceiling and an oil furnace in the winter of 1963. As electric coolers and freezers revolutionized the grocery business, these modern conveniences were added, requiring the removal of some of the oak shelving.
Sam often said that his single operation of the store would not have been possible without the help of his sister Betty Bischoff, Betty's career with the Red Cross allowed her the freedom to spend the summer months helping Sam at the store. Betty's wide travels introduced her to many varied cultures, and each year she brought back stories and unusual goods to be shared in the store. In the summer of 1978, Betty died after a long illness; she is missed in a very special way by her many friends and patrons of the store.
In November of 1974, Ralph and Sue Glidden moved to Cooke City from Oregon to spend a winter cross-country skiing and visiting Sue's mother, Mrs. Jean Higham. Sue's family had owned a sheep ranch in the Clarks Fork Valley, and the operation had included summer grazing high in the rugged alpine tundra of the Beartooths. In June of 1975, Ralph began work as a clerk a the Cooke City Store. Sue began work in the summer of 1976, and the two continued as employees until they bought the store in January of 1977.
During the summer of 1984 at age 14, Troy Wilson began working at the Cooke City Store. He continued to work at the store for the next ten summers. In the summer of 1988 he met his future wife, Bethany Gould, who was working at an area ranch. Beth worked her first summer at the store in 1990. Troy and Beth married in 1992 and worked at the store for two more seasons. As Ralph and Sue prepared for retirement, they approached the Wilsons about buying the store. Troy and Beth spend the summer of 2003 reacquainting themselves with store operations, and then fulfilled their dreams by purchasing the Cooke City Store in October 2003.
Since its construction in 1886 when it provided miners and settlers with a wider range of merchandise, the Cooke City Store has continuously served area residents and tourists as a major source of supplies and goods in this remote area.