Never Judge a Town by its Number - Wyoming Magazine


Never Judge a Town by its Number


There is one thing that Wyoming is certainly big on, and that’s small towns. Living in the country but having a strength in close communities is something that no Wyoming native takes for granted. While millions of people are raised looking out at the street and city lights, we get to look up at the stars. And while millions more hustle every morning through jam-packed highways, life happens at a much more comfortable pace in Wyoming.

This could not be more true than for the town of Buford, Wyoming, the smallest town in America. Its population: One. That one is Brandon Hoover, an incredibly hard worker and employee of the the PhinDeli Town Buford Trading Post.

Manager of the Trading Post and close friend of Hoover’s, Jason Hirsch proudly wears the title of “Town Manager” in Buford. He and Hoover are local celebrities, and have the pleasure of meeting just about every single person that passes through this quiet mountain town.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the trading Post is anything but slow. Nearly 1,000 people come through the doors each day during the busy season. With a prime location off of Interstate 80, people travel into Buford from the East Coast to the West Coast, and from Australia to Iceland. Hirsch has met customers from just about every part of the world, including the owner of the town, Pham Dinh Nguyen of Vietnam.

Yes, “owner.” A Vietnamese investor, Nguyen purchased the town of Buford in an online auction for $900,000 n 2013. First founded in 1866, Buford was once a railroad town. Now, it is perhaps best known for its population of one and for having been purchased online.

At only 38 years-old, Nguyen had a goal in mind when he became owner of the smallest town in America. That goal was to sell PhinDeli coffee. Giving the town and Trading Post the rebranded name, “PhinDeli Town of Buford,” and “PhinDeli Town Buford Trading Post,” Nguyen has left a special mark on this town and those who know it. Many of the seasonal customers come in to try the coffee, which is only sold in this tiny Wyoming town …and Vietnam.

The gourmet blend “Giot Dang” is not only fun to say but is also well liked by customers and Hirsch himself. Though Nguyen has only stopped through town a handful of times, he is quite the celebrity back in Vietnam. Proudly wearing a cowboy hat around, he is known as “The Mayor, in is home of Saigon,” (ask the author to cite this: He is known as “the mayor in his home of Saigon,” Hirsch [or whoever] said.)

The coffee definitely adds to the character of Buford, and while summer is here and business is picking up, the specialty coffee and the town itself are in jeopardy.

The Trading Post is the one and only business in Buford. Functioning as a gas station, convenience store, gift shop, and more, it may seem as if the money flows in sweetly. Buford branded t-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, and several souvenirs line the shelves. Necessary supplies make it a go-to for many travelers and neighbors. And we all have to fill our tanks. There are dozens of ways the trading Post brings in money to keep it afloat. Yet Hirsh spends many of his 12-hour shifts “flying by the seat of my pants,” wondering, “What bills can I pay?”

Winters can be cruel along I-80, as winds and snow often force the interstate to close. Hirsch said he spends his winters “trying to get from point A to point B.”

As the cold rolls in and the blizzards start building after Labor Day, the 1,000 customers per day fall to 50 per day. With financial assistance and promises unfulfilled, Hirsh worries that the future of this beloved town and his business could be dim.

In October of 2015, the opportunity to lease the Trading Post became available. Then, as a store clerk, Hirsh saw his chance to help grow the business he had invested so much of his life and time in. Growing up just outside Buford, his heart is fully in this town. You can hear it in his voice, and in the way he worries about a possible shutdown.

What would a shutdown of the Trading Post mean for a town of one? What would it mean for a business with a unique history that almost seems like fiction?

With a hopeful heart, Hirsh is optimistic that the summer and the “close knit community” will turn things around.

It’s not only the popularity and convenience that help support the town.

“Summertime up here is spectacular,” Hirsch said, and that’s exactly why so many people come through.

Nearby is mountain biking, countless outdoor adventures, and Vedauwoo, which is world renowned for camping, climbing, and hiking. Coast to coast trips along I-80 are also incredibly popular for families on summer break.

What better way to experience America than by visiting an exceptional town in each state?

The surrounding community, along with Hirsch and Hoover, have been able to capitalize a bit on the summer business boom, in order to make Burford even more of a must-see. Hirsch has tried several times to plan events to bring the community close. One in particular has succeeded.

Last July, the first annual “Windstock” next to the Trading Post drew 200 people for live music and fun in the sun. The second annual Windsock event will be July 8, and the crowd is expected to grow. A local motorcycle club will host a poker run with an expected participation of 200 people. The Volunteer Fire Department will host a town fundraiser, and some big names will take center stage, including The Avenue, Moe Diggin, and Sean Hess.

If you’re not able to take in the sounds and sights of Windstock, perhaps you will be lucky enough to catch Hoover playing music in the Trading Post sometime. With his knack for drawing

in customers, and Hirsch’s business mindset, Hirsch says the two of them make a pretty good team.

For Hirsch, the drive up the road from the Trading Post to his homestead relieves the stress and worry he carries as town manager. His horse Sugar Pie and his goats and chickens keep him company in his spare time.

Hirsch’s family lives in Denver, Colorado, and having lived there once himself, he knows that he has no desire to leave the Buford again.

That may make his hard work keeping the store standing that much harder.

“I absolutely love it here,” Hirsch said.

And who wouldn’t? With breathtaking mountain views, a special claim to fame, and two of the friendliest faces running the town’s only business, we have to believe that this is one town that is going to pull through.

Once summer rolls out, it’s uncertain what lies ahead for Buford. The tale of Buford teaches us that small towns—even when the population is only one—do not mean small communities. With numerous calls from the media, support from friends of the Trading Post, and the seasonal customers that spend a summer day or two taking in the smallest town in America, all build upon the story and strength that help keep Hirsh, Hoover, and the heart of Buford holding on.

Add Buford to the very top of your bucket list. Make it a major stop on this summer’s vacation. Towns this special truly deserve a spot on the map. Be sure to venture into the PhinDeli Town Buford Trading Post for a souvenir, some Chugwater Chili, and you might just meet “the one!”

The PhinDeli Buford Town Trading post is located at 2 Sammons Lane, Buford, WY 82052.

During the summer, the store is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and in the winter, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Article Written by Tyler Julian

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