Things are sold in auctions every day, and the range of value is huge. Such value is often determined by the quality, history, and uniqueness of the item. The item that was sold in an auction on June 2nd in Aladdin, Wyoming, wasn’t some small piece of memorabilia; it was the town of Aladdin itself. The town presented itself as bursting with history, authenticity, and a true Western spirit.
This small 30-acre hamlet, which used to be owned by Rick and Judy Brengle, was a coal mining outpost at its peak population of 200 inhabitants. According to the most recent census, the town stands almost empty with 15 people living there.
It seems as if Rick and Judy Brengle grew tired of life in Aladdin. The two of them ran the store and mobile home park seven days a week for 31 years. They bought the property in 1986 from Gayle and Winifred Weaver, who were its previous owners. Now all they want is to retire to their ranch (which is just North from Aladdin). This is the reason why the two of them decided to sell the property, which includes a landmark historic store, post office, gas station, an adjacent 2-bedroom home, an outbuilding with a walk-in cooler and a seven-unit mobile home park. The bid also included a liquor license and cigarette contracts, as well as a 17-acre tract on the opposite side of Wyoming Highway 24, which includes a quarter-mile frontage of Hay Creek.
Rick and Judy were aware that saying the “town” was for sale is not exactly accurate because it is actually a deeded property. Still, they decided to use this statement in order to attract more customers.
The old store lives up to the definition of historical: It is one of the most authentic surviving roadside mercantile operations in Wyoming, built 125 years ago to serve the then-thriving coal mining community. After the Aladdin mine closed, the store continued to serve the local ranch owners. Because the post office is situated in the store, people from the area often come by to check their mail and have a cold beer. The store is never quiet. Tourists who are heading to Devil’s Tower also come by, and it is a regular stop for hunters.
A day before the auction, Judy Brengle expressed her hope that Aladdin’s Old West charm would be preserved. Now, after the auction has taken place, it seems that things will probably stay the same. The new owners of the hamlet are Maynard and Lee Rude, and they intend to keep up the tradition of this historic landmark. Maynard and Lee Rude decided to sell their buffalo ranch near Nisland and invest their money into Aladdin.
Rapid City auctioneer Martin Jurisch started the bid, and the first offer was pretty low; only $300,000. After Lee and his father, Maynard, made a bid of $500,000, and as no one else seemed to be interested in going higher, Jurisch declared the Rudes to be new owners of the place. Both Rick and Judy Brengle and the new owners expected the bid to go higher, at least $750,000 to $800,000, but auctions are unpredictable.
Besides the property and all the equipment and products on the shelves of the store, the hamlet came with its staff. Among them is 84-year-old Pearl Jensen. Jensen has taken care of the shop for more than 40 years. He was employed by the Weaver family and later he continued to work for the Brengles. Jensen hopes that the new owner will keep the tradition and allow him to work in the shop in the future.