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Jackson Hole, WY News

A Bondurant revival

Renovated general shops and restaurants have changed hands.

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Rim Station

Motorists heading down Highway 191 bound for Pinedale or Rock Springs this winter may notice something different as they crest the hydrological divide leading into the Green River basin.

At the Hoback Rim, as it’s called, there figures to be an open sign on Rim Station, a historic establishment that’s been known for being closed more often than not, especially in winter. Brent and Jackie Hillen, the general store’s new owners, aim to change that reputation.

“The goal is for people to stop, come in and talk,” Brent Hillen said. “Give them more of a personable experience, and a place to go.”

That starts with staying open: Winter hours “most likely” will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week. Currently, the Rim Station is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.

Rim Station

Brent and Jackie Hillen have been working to revamp the Rim Station space and offerings of the business. They plan on opening a bar and restaurant in the near future and hope to see it become a gathering place for locals and travelers as they pass through.

Rim Station

Jackie Hillen works the cash register as her husband, Brent Hillen, pours taste testers of one of the local liquors they sell at the store. In the past the store has been known for being closed more often than not, but the Hillens are changing that. “The goal is for people to stop, come in and talk,” Brent Hillen said.

Once inside the modest shop, patrons will have to grab a bite at a new bar that the Hillens are building. Or they’ll just be able to peruse the aisles, which feature an array of local goods, ranging from whiskey from Pinedale’s Cowboy Country Distilling to hunting and fishing items.

The Rim Station, which also hosts the Hillens’ real estate office, is not the only establishment in the Bondurant area that has changed hands and been spruced and shored up.

Sixteen miles up the highway toward Teton County, Jackson residents Ian and Elena Schroth have renovated the historic Elkhorn, a bar and trading post they bought in mid-2019. Gone are the faded, tacked-on dollar bills that used to line the walls and ceilings of the once-smoky gas station and grill.

“There’s definitely a big revival down here,” Ian Schroth said.

There are some new features on the 4-acre lot at the junction of Highway 191 and Dell Creek Road. Coming in 2022, for one, will be an 18-spot RV park located on the backside of the property.

But in other ways, Schroth’s vision for the Elkhorn’s future is to uphold its history.

“When you buy a place like the Elkhorn, which has longstanding traditions, I think there’s a responsibility to the community,” he said. “You can’t alienate people.”

Eventually the Elkhorn’s menu will feature some familiar items from restaurants of yesteryear in the region.

The Elkhorn Trading Post

The Elkhorn, a bar and trading post on Highway 189, welcomes locals and visitors in Bondurant, providing a place to pump gas, pick up food or grab a drink. Ian and Elena Schroth run the business.

The Elkhorn Trading Post

Elena and Ian Schroth, seen here with their children, 2-month-old Elise and 2-year-old Colter, purchased the Elkhorn in mid-2019 and have been working to refurbish and develop the business since. Ian Schroth can be found most days at the Elkhorn either behind the bar or working on one of the many ongoing projects on the property.

“The whole concept is to go back to Jackson staples,” Schroth said. “Basically, reliving my childhood is what I’m trying to do.”

Slowly, Schroth is also renovating the four apartments and seven cabins spread across the Elkhorn compound. It’s hands-on work that often involves a bunch of troubleshooting and is proving to be an education about building practices from the 1950s to the ’90s, when most of the structures went up.

“I knew nothing about plumbing and electrical,” he said. “It’s the ultimate puzzle.”

The Hillens, likewise, have handled the lion’s share of Rim Station’s renovations on their own. Buildings on the 5.5-acre property date to the same era, with the main structure going up in late 1940s. The handiwork has been a big part of their lives since buying the station in 2020. The project marked somewhat of a left turn in life with the couple, formerly of California.

“The way we got here is our friends,” Jackie Hillen said. “We were helping them move here, and my husband was driving one of the trailers. And he never came home.”

The Elkhorn Trading Post

Colter Schroth, 2, sits at the end of the Elkhorn bar as locals and visitors pass through. His parents believe in upholding the Elkhorn’s history. “You can’t alienate people,” Ian Schroth said.

Now, a year later, their hope is that the Rim Station supports itself in the winter by attracting more locals with its coming restaurant, which will have a “simple” menu. The tourist traffic, which fills up their RV park’s dozen sites for months, tends to dry up once the snow flies. A dream of Brent Hillen’s is to develop the winter economy in the region by working with landowners and the agencies to route a new groomed snowmobile trail by his new business and even down through Bondurant.

“I think that would be fantastic,” Hillen said. “It could link Kendall Valley [in Cora], the Place [on Highway 352], here [at the Rim Station] and Ian’s place — the Elkhorn.”

But in the meantime, the winters down in snowy Bondurant figure to remain customarily quiet. Schroth has learned that firsthand in his first couple of years of operation.

“Out here it’s tough,” Schroth said. “I was a little naive about the slow times and the busy times. You have a captive population of 100 people.”

The Elkhorn Trading Post

Elena Schroth holds two-month-old Elise while her husband, Ian Schroth, surveys the land behind the Elkhorn Trading Post. Ian Schroth is transforming the area into a RV Park and has been working on restoring and developing the business since purchasing it in 2019.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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