WHEATLAND – Dan Brecht was somewhat of a wanderer throughout his life. His son, Zach Brecht was comfortable out of the public eye. Together they came up with a moniker for their eclectic book store and coffee shop, now known by everyone in Platte County as “The Wandering Hermit.”
“My son Zach and I started The Wandering Hermit Books and Gifts about six years ago, so it’s pretty good,” Brecht said. “I am a lifelong resident of Wheatland and Platte County, and have tried living other places and you know that rubber band theory just brought me back. So here I am, we’re running a bookstore and now, as of last fall, a toy store was added on next door and we’re pretty excited about that.”
The Brechts owns the building to the west of his bookstore where Blackburn’s Emporium is located. The building to the east was where the childlike wonder in Brecht became a reality in the form of a toystore.
“When we bought that building we knew there was already an existing doorway between the two stores because at one time there was a men’s clothing store on this side and a women’s clothing store on the other side and they were connected,” Brecht said. “So we bought it knowing that it was a potential thing that we could do.”
The toy store is a part of The Wandering Hermit Books and Gifts, but it is called simply, “The Toy Store.”
According to the Wandering Hermit’s website, the Brechts introduce their establishment as, “a cozy, independent bookstore that opened its doors in November 2014. We pride ourselves in our great beverage bar, our large and eclectic selection of new books, our used books section, and our wonderful collection of Wyoming made gifts. What we hear the most from our customers is how much they enjoy our welcoming atmosphere…. the smell of fresh ground coffee beans, the fireplace and the soft music in the background. In the summer we pride ourselves in having flowers on the patio and in our flower boxes out front.”
Dan Brecht is a Wheatland native who is the quintessential story of a local boy who left, came back and is leaving very beautiful footprints in his hometown.
What got the Brecht bloodline to Wyoming was farming. His grandparents moved from Chicago to Wheatland due to his grandfather’s loss of a job in the height of the great depression. They moved here because this grandfather’s parents were here farming.
His roots run deep and local on both sides of his family as his mother was born here on a farm west of town and grew up on a ranch on the Albany County/Platte County border and pretty much lived her entire life here. You may even say that he was born to the breed here in Wyoming.
He pretty much fits that quote, “Wyoming, where dreamers are born and cowboys are made.”
Brecht remembers growing up in Wheatland with a father that as he says, “could do pretty much anything and actually did, from selling cars to running his own business” and a stay at home mom, who, when the kids got older worked at the old Pamida store.
After graduating from Wheatland High School, Brecht went on to the University of Wyoming and graduated from there with a degree in education. He again came back home to teach at first at Libby Elementary and then when West opened, he taught there.
As the rubber band shot him forth again out of Wheatland during the hectic days of the power plant construction, the wanderer went north. Extreme north to Alaska. Initially to help some friends move there, but fell in love with the area and was again sowing his Wheatland seeds in distant lands.
“On the way up, I happened to pull into a small little community called Palmer, which is in the Matanuska Valley,” he said. “If you’ve ever seen the large cabbages that they grow, Palmer is where most of that is done. It’s a real agricultural area which sounds like an oxymoron, but it really is.”
In that fertile valley of Alaska, the growing season was short, but 24 hours a day, according to Brecht and the climate was very good for cold weather crops.
“I pulled into this little community of Palmer and fell in love with it right away,” he said. “I thought that if I ever moved up to Alaska, this would be a place I’d like to go. About two years later I was brushing my teeth one morning, looked in the mirror and said, ‘I think I’m going to move to Alaska,’ and that’s literally how it was.”
To describe Brecht correctly would be difficult. He may consider himself a wanderer, but the trip to a place that is 2,973 miles away into a remote coastal area of Alaska without knowing a soul speaks of his being an adventurer. A man who loves and savors every moment of his life and who is constantly gathering knowledge and information not just through the thousands of books he’s read, but from the real-life adventures he has lived. He has fully realized that the dotted boundary lines in Rand McNally’s are not fences and when life offers you opportunities, she always proves it was worth the risk.
As for how life’s rubber band snapped him back again to Wyoming, there wasn’t a definite call or sign or directive, but Brecht who has mastered the art of listening to his heart and heeding his intuition just knew it was time to come home.
“My son was working in Cheyenne in a job that was OK, but he didn’t care for it much,” Brecht said. “I had retired a couple of years prior and I was getting bored with life. He had spent some time in high school at the library here in Wheatland. He had also worked at Barnes and Noble in Cheyenne. We visited a lot and we just decided that we maybe had the skills and the talent that you needed to have to start a bookstore and so we did.”
As per the many parts of Brecht’s life, he went in not knowing if there was going to be a good ending or a bad ending, but somewhere deep down inside, there was an excitement that told him to go ahead. Again, the adventurer took over in him, and Wheatland has been blessed that he chose to adventure in his own backyard.
The bookstore opened in 2014 and has been a pillar of the downtown area ever since.
Brecht has his hands into many Platte County endeavors such as Platte County Mainstreet which is part of both the national and state Mainstreet program. He is also part of a group of local business people who are seeking to get Wheatland established on the national archives as a historic downtown.
To hear the entire interview with Dan Brecht, it will be shown on a future episode of Platte County’s weekly television series, “Homespun.” To see recent Homespun shows, visit the Platte County Record-Times website: www.pcrecordtimes.com
For more information or questions you can visit their website at: http://wanderinghermitbooks.com/ or you can call the bookstore at (307) 331-2887. The store is located at 875 Gilchrist Street in downtown Wheatland.