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Tending to White Owl

Ann Shaw and her family have kept the spirit of White Owl alive by repurposing its former stagecoach stop into the White Owl Creek Boutique.

When the closest town with a population over 1,000 is 65 miles away and you have only one business, your community might be considered a ghost town, but White Owl has some very “uptown” amenities. Words like boutique, salon and podcast aren’t unusual here.

Ann Shaw’s White Owl Creek Boutique offers women’s fashions in the White Owl Store, a 120-year-old building that was the first Post Office in Meade County in 1893 and still serves that purpose today. A salon offers all the services you might find in a larger city, including massage therapy.

Ann loves the opportunity to keep White Owl “on the map.” She purchased the White Owl Store in 2020 and opened in 2021 as the boutique/salon. “Nothing is straight. It gives it character,” she grins about the building that once served as a stagecoach stop. “Nobody wants to see a building go downhill and we want to keep our post office alive.”

“Everyone here has the same mindset,” says Ann’s daughter Kylie of the tight-knit community. “We don’t want to fade away.”

Offerings at the boutique are “one and done” runs of clothing, so if you spot something you like, you better grab it, because chances are it’s not coming back. Ann handpicks the jewelry, along with candles, shirts and rubber band guns — all made in South Dakota.

White Owl Creek Boutique offers area ranch families merchandise that might not otherwise be found within an hour's drive.

White Owl Creek Boutique is usually open Monday through Saturday. The dream is to host family reunions and events with arts vendors and Meade County historians. Shaw calls them “little festivals. We want the scenic route visitors looking to experience something different.”

“White Owl has the potential to grow,” Ann says. “There are people around with talents and trades.” This thinking is behind the podcast run by Shaw’s sister-in-law Jodene Shaw and friend Molly Fulton. “I’ve wanted to do a podcast for a long time,” Fulton says. “It seemed like it’s not that hard.” So she asked Jodene to join in creating Place Well Tended, an ongoing discussion about “creativity, place, landscapes and South Dakotans.”

“Where I live is considered the middle of nowhere and yet there are people doing incredible things,” Jodene says. She should know. Shaw is a visual artist who uses mixed media to create pieces sold in the White Owl Creek Boutique and at art galleries and shows throughout western South Dakota.

Through their podcast, Shaw and Fulton have discovered that South Dakotans often think alike. “There are a lot of commonalities that create a community,” Jodene says. “And we have gotten to talk to the coolest people.” Guests have included Fort Pierre restaurateur Uriah Steber, photographer/videographer Wes Eisenhauer and linguist Dawn Wink.

The first two seasons include 16 episodes, each running around 45 minutes in length and available through several streaming applications. Season Three of Place Well Tended — an apt description for both the podcast and the tiny West River community that nurtures it — is forthcoming.

Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the September/October 2022 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.


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