The Wanderer on Gilchrist; new look, same hometown charm

The Wanderer on Gilchrist is basically the same bookstore that Dan Brecht used to own at 875 Gilchrist Street. New owners Jeremy and Tara Weterman have brought new ideas and inventory to the store including a trendy boutique. Bottom Pictures: Wanderer2: The Wheatland welcoming committee led by Linda Fabian welcomed Tara and Jeremy Westerman to the neighborhood Oct. 10 at the annual downtown business holiday Sip, Savor and Shop event. Wanderer3: New owner of The Wanderer on Gilchrist has retained the lattes and coffees that the little bookstore is famous for. Westerman has brought in some new drinks with some clever names. Wanderer4: One of the features of The Wanderer on Gilchrist is the cozy and welcoming atmosphere that features separate areas on the main level and the lofts with comfy couches and quiet nooks to read lots of books.

WHEATLAND – Tara Westerman has worn many hats in her lifetime including student, wife, mother, day care owner and rancher. Her newest hat is that of a retail shop owner in historic downtown Wheatland.

Westerman was born in the Sioux or so they call it in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, although her family was living just over the border in Inwood, Iowa, known for their spectacular Fourth of July fireworks displays.

Westerman’s dad then took a job as a principal for East Martin Christian Reformed school which is between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. The family stayed in Michigan for seven years until Westerman was 11. At that point, the family got crushing news that Westerman’s mom developed Multiple Sclerosis at which point they decided to move closer to family and headed back to Sioux Falls.

Her dad then became the administrator at the Christian middle school in Sioux Falls. Her mom and dad originally met in Iowa and as her dad was teaching, her mom opened a chain of restaurants called Pizza Ranch.

“When we came back to Sioux Falls, it was a really good move for me,” Westerman said. “I loved it after having lived in the very small town of Martin. I was so girly, like I’d travel to the nearest bigger town that had dance instruction. The girls in my class there were all into snowmobiles and hunting, so I felt like I didn’t fit in very well.”

Westerman graduated from Sioux Falls Christian High School in 2001.

“Then I went to the University of Sioux Falls after having gone to the tech school for a couple of years,” she said. “Really hated the tech school and I went because it was cheaper. I then transferred to USF for psychology and that’s where I met Jeremy.”

Westerman has a bachelor’s degree in general psychology.

Jeremy Westerman grew up in Chugwater, the son of former 4th District Representative Dan Kirkbride and his wife Lynn. They have owned a family generational ranch for years and Jeremy grew up a rancher and still works the ranch today while his wife has tackled the new task of running the bookstore.

“Jeremy and I also did a couple of years of grad school to get our master’s degree in education,” Westerman said. “I was a dorm mom for five years. The way he found USF was that he went to camp WYOBA as a kid and there would be reps there from Sioux Falls that would be really fun and cool and they’d talk about the college and so that’s how he ended up there.”

The unlikely couple of a rancher’s son from Wyoming and an educator’s daughter from Sioux Falls came together by way of what they like to think was divine intervention.

“Jeremy and I got married in Sioux Falls in 2006 while I was a senior in college,” she said. “After I graduated, both of us did a myriad of ridiculous jobs. I was a floor set manager in the mall because we needed insurance, I was a mom, I worked at a church and I was a barista. He did sub jobs, he did a headhunting job, was a CrossFit instructor, a medical sales rep, I was the dorm mom, he was a paramedic… so we did tons of stuff.”

Westerman said that she is naturally a worker bee and directly after college she was bagging groceries at a local supermarket.

“I really love to work and I believe that’s the Dutch in me,” she said with a smile.

Both of the grads came back to Wyoming with a full resume of work experience and as a couple, there was a connection due to the adversity that both of them had to face as children. Jeremy’s dad died when he was very young and Tara’s mom was battling MS.”

Through the adversity they have encouraged one another and strengthened their marriage in the process.

“I think because he lost his dad when he was eight and my mom was diagnosed with MS when I was 11,” she said. “So, yeah, I think that was a connecting point for us because we felt mature though very young.”

So Jeremy took over as the man of the house after his dad died and helped care for his younger brother while Tara helped raise siblings when here parents were busy battling a cruel and debilitating disease.

“I think about how that has changed and molded our whole lives,” she said. “Because that meant that Lynn met Dan in grief counseling and Jeremy was the first non-blood relative to be a working partner on the ranch. And that’s the whole reason we’re here.”

The couple amid the various jobs also found the time to have three children, Beck, Remy and Gabe.

“In 2017 we just had our youngest and at the same time, Dan said that he was ready to partially retire and was getting more involved in politics and told us that it was the time if we wanted to come back. So we moved to the ranch and lived in the basement while their house was being finished for four months and now it’s five years later.”

Here as we approach the hectic holidays, both Jeremy and Tara are both 39 years old and have managed their success with an even and soft-spoken demeanor. From college, through a path of adversity to odd jobbers to parents to ranchers and now bookstore owners, it’s been a life of transitions and learning how to go with the flow. And how in the world did all that shaping prepare her to be a bookstore owner?       

“In the first few years I was in the trenches of young kids,” she said. “For the last 10 years I’ve been mostly a stay-at-home mom. With all the different jobs, I look at the experience gained. A floor set manager, a barista, a dorm mom, I was a connections manager at a church along with the fact that I love books. I love aesthetics, I love people but it still took Jeremy and I talking for about 10 years before we stepped into this transition.”

They have finally taken the leap of faith and overnight became bookstore, toy store, boutique, coffee shop owners, employers, landlords and learning as they go, putting their experience to work. When things tend to get overwhelming the homesickness still, every once in a while tries to get after Tara, but she says that investing in the community and the people and business gives her something tangible and something that she can put her own signature upon.

Westerman quotes Jenna Fischer’s character, Pam Beesly from the television show “The Office,” when she speaks about being a new business owner. She says, “Some of us get it and some of us don’t, and I don’t. But I’m really happy to be here.”

She says that she feels intentional about relationships as was her predecessor and former owner Dan Brecht.

“I think I have good instincts and I’m like Dan as to how I prioritize people,” she said. “At first when I first came to Wyoming, moving from family and a place I really loved, was hard. I told myself I will not be bitter and maybe this wasn’t my dream, but I am going to find my place. And I started things. Like last year I started a preschool and a few other things to help me snuggle my way in here because this is where I live and this is where my husband’s heart is. We’re going to raise our kids here, and so I’m like, stubborn in the way that I set out to find what God has for me.”

Mixing her specials concoctions behind the coffee counter, the infectious smile that makes people feel at home when they walk into her shop, the signatures that she has already put to her canvas of life all point to what God had for her and speaks volumes about a woman who found her place and, in that place, her purpose was revealed.

Most of all, when you walk into The Wanderer on Gilchrist, you can’t help but think that you’ve wandered into a place that feels like home. And we all know from Dorothy Gale, the pioneer of purpose, “there’s no place like home.”

The Wanderer on Gilchrist is basically the same bookstore that Dan Brecht used to own at 875 Gilchrist Street. New owners Jeremy and Tara Weterman have brought new ideas and inventory to the store including a trendy boutique. Bottom Pictures: Wanderer2: The Wheatland welcoming committee led by Linda Fabian welcomed Tara and Jeremy Westerman to the neighborhood Oct. 10 at the annual downtown business holiday Sip, Savor and Shop event. Wanderer3: New owner of The Wanderer on Gilchrist has retained the lattes and coffees that the little bookstore is famous for. Westerman has brought in some new drinks with some clever names. Wanderer4: One of the features of The Wanderer on Gilchrist is the cozy and welcoming atmosphere that features separate areas on the main level and the lofts with comfy couches and quiet nooks to read lots of books.

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