Donna Garland remembers opening a seemingly niche food store 13 years ago. Garland, the owner of The Health Nut & Wellness Center in Sheridan, believed the demand existed for the type of supplements and organic food her store offered.

Garland’s belief came true over the years. The store attracted more customers and eventually opened a small deli counter inside.

The success of The Health Nut & Wellness Center is only one example of a local food store finding a home in Sheridan. Between restaurants, cafés and specialty options, Sheridan’s local food culture appears to be as strong as ever.

It may be surprising that a small, rural community is able to support a variety of food options. But Sheridan is unique in many ways. More people are becoming health-conscious, leading to an increase in fresh and organic produce sales, particularly to younger customers.

“They understand that if you eat better, you’re going to feel “ better, you’re going to live better,” Garland said.

Wyoming’s independent spirit cannot be ignored, either. Many people want to grow at least some of their own food and be partially self-sustaining.

Tourists undoubtedly play a significant role in keeping the thriving local food scene alive. Frackelton’s service manager Kyan Sanderson said the in flux of travelers at Frackelton’s from April to September. Business remains steady the rest of the year due to the local connection and familial atmosphere.

Sanderson has worked at Frackelton’s for about three years and has noticed a gradual increase in local food awareness over the years. She attributed that in part to food’s ubiquity in mainstream culture, including shows on TV and the increasing variety of cook- books. Sanderson also said social media plays a role, particularly Facebook and Instagram.

“That’s all you see when you oat through Facebook,” Sanderson said. “Somebody’s like, ‘Look at how to make this.’ Everybody loves food right now.”

Justin Sheely | The Sheridan Press
Mark Bullick harvests green beans from his garden plot at Sagebrush Community Garden July 27, 2017.

Sanderson said Frackelton’s has made an effort in recent years to buy more local food. Frackelton’s recently started doing business with Wyoming Legacy Meats in Cody. The restaurant also purchases food from Legerski’s Sausage, local grains and often utilizes farmers markets in warmer months.

The wide array of food options near each other forces restaurants to increase quality. Still, Sanderson said it is more of a collaboration than competition among food providers in Sheridan.

Frackelton’s also works with other organizations in town, like the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center and The Hub on Smith.

“We love outreach projects, which is the best way to connect with the community and keep that food connection going,” Sanderson said.

A local pipeline exists as well. Many Frackelton’s employees come from the Sheridan College culinary arts or hospitality management programs. The consistent stream of graduates means more possibilities for different, new options around town.

Sanderson likes working in proximity to Red Velvet Bakery and Java Moon and serving beer from Black Tooth Brewing Company and Luminous Brewhouse.

“I really love Sheridan’s growth in food culture because when you have that growth, it actually makes people go out and eat dinner more,” Sanderson said. “When you have more restaurants, it doesn’t make you a worse restaurant, it ups the ante and then you strive to be better.”

Garland said her store works with other local health stores in town.

“It’s nice to have competition, but it’s also nice to work in the same type of business and be able to work side-by-side,” Garland said. “It’s nice to have more than one store because they stock stuff that we don’t, we stock stuff that they don’t … People have more of a choice, and that’s good for them.”

Garland believes the trend of buying locally can only continue to grow. Sanderson agreed, noting that food is a natural connector.

“People love food, and it’s always going to be that way,” Sanderson said. “Whether you’re in a boom or bust, you’re going to always have a restaurant and always have a bar.”

Sheridan is no exception.

Justin Sheely | The Sheridan Press
Executive chef Mike Adams flips locally sourced ribeye steak at Frackelton’s in Sheridan.