n Owner of Nick’s Hamburger Shop honored by peers
The owner of an iconic restaurant in Brookings will receive the 2011 South Dakota Retailer of the Year Award.
Dick Fergen will be honored at the South Dakota Retailers Association’s annual Awards Banquet in Pierre Monday, Jan. 10. The event will be attended by state legislators, and retailers from throughout the state.
Fergen owns Nick’s Hamburger Shop on Main Avenue in Brookings. He was chosen for the award by a committee of retailers.
SDRA Board President Mike Cole of Lewis Drug in Sioux Falls says, “Dick Fergen is a guy who loves what he does, plain and simple. When you talk to him about his business, he doesn’t talk about the nuts and bolts of the operation, or the bottom line. He talks about the people. He genuinely loves his customers. And they return the feeling.”
Cole noted that when Nick’s Hamburger Shop was started in 1929, it was the place to go, and it still is. In fact, he said, the little burger joint is such a big part of people’s lives that it’s still the first and last place many people go when they come back to Brookings for a visit.
The hamburger shop – Nick’s doesn’t serve sandwiches or hot dogs – is a bonafide tourist attraction in downtown Brookings.
In 2010, USA Today named Nick’s Hamburger Shop one of the nation’s 51 great burger joints, and customers take very seriously the restaurant’s slogan advising them to "buy ‘em by the bag.”
The burgers from Nick’s are such a tradition for people who have lived in the area that former South Dakotans living in other states have Dick Fergen ship big orders of his burgers to them for special occasions.
While he’s maintained the original recipes and cooking methods, Fergen has upgraded the business since purchasing it in 2004. During a major remodeling project in 2008, he boosted the seating capacity, and more than doubled the burger count.
The restaurant had to be closed during the renovation, so Fergen bought a trailer, outfitted it for cooking, and served up burgers in the lot next to his restaurant. The trailer is now used for catering, for community festivals throughout eastern South Dakota, and for serving food at SDSU home football games.
The two lots next to Nick’s Hamburger Shop had been vacant following a fire that claimed two buildings in 1985. Fergen bought the lots and paved them. For five months out of the year, he erects a large tent and sets out tables and chairs. The site, known as ‘Nick’s Park,’ is used for reunions and other special events, and has become a favorite gathering spot for people listening to live musical performances in downtown Brookings during the summer.
Letters from customers and employees nominating Fergen for the Retailer of the Year Award spoke at length about how generous he is to friends and strangers alike, his enthusiastic support of community activities, and how his energetic, positive outlook endears him to everyone who comes into contact with him.
Said Mike Cole, “When you ask Dick Fergen to tell you about the way he runs his business, what he’ll tell you instead is that it’s a great place. He says his customers are beautiful people, and that it’s not really a restaurant, it’s just a great way of life. He says he is blessed to be able to have that business, and it’s obvious that the people in his community also feel blessed to have him there.”
The Retailer of the Year Award has been presented annually since 1982 by the South Dakota Retailers Association, a 3,900-member statewide business organization.
(Tickets for the Jan. 10 banquet are available for $35 per person by calling the South Dakota Retailers Association at 1-800-658-5545 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.)