By: Nick Perkins

“Home is where the heart is. But my heart is here. So I must be home.”

  • The Time Traveler’s Wife

Really, did she ever even have a choice?

Sherrie Lopez, owner of Sherrie’s Place Restaurant, was born into this business. Her mother and step-father had opened a slew of restaurants in Casper, back when 2nd Street was the only drag in town and Sherrie was barely tall enough to see over the stove. In fact, from 1976 to 1981, her parents actually owned the very same restaurant that would eventually be Sherrie’s Place. Back then, it was called the Coffee Cup Café and it consisted of one counter top and six booths.

After that, Sherrie’s parents ventured to Kansas for a time, before returning home to Casper and opening another slew of restaurants, including the Paradise Valley Café, an airport eatery and a restaurant whose name should elicit a smile from Casper’s old-timers- the Kopper Kettle. Encouraging patrons to “fill your belly and wet your whistle,” the Kopper Kettle was an institution on the outskirts of Casper and was repeatedly said to have had “the best breakfast in town.” During that time, Sherrie, herself, was managing the airport restaurant and then went on to work for various “corporations” for a time, before she was called back “home.”

After Sherrie’s parents sold the Coffee Cup Café, various owners tried to make it their own, to no avail. Finally, in 1997, Sherrie bought the restaurant and it has been Sherrie’s Place ever since.

“This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” Sherrie confessed. “It’s what I’m good at. It’s in my family, in my blood.”

It has taken a lot of blood, sweat, tears and bacon grease to maintain Sherrie’s Place for the past twenty years. Sherrie said she has replaced everything in the restaurant “at least three times” over the course of the years. This makes sense, as the building itself is 100 years old. But Sherrie has no plans of renovating or relocating.

“I look at this, and I look at what I’ve done, and the building itself- I think part of the business itself is the ambience of the building and I’m not ready to get rid of that,” Sherrie stated. “The ambience of the building, the character of the building- she knows I take care of her. Did you know she’s 100 years old? She was built in 1917.”

Things were vastly different a hundred years ago for the Old Yellowstone District. There were rumors of brothels and bootleg liquor, with more lynching than lunching. But it’s the notorious history of the location that has partially contributed to its renaissance the past few years. The community is embracing the history of Downtown Casper and the stories that it has to tell. The story of Sherrie’s Place is just one of them.

When asked what it takes to open and maintain a restaurant for 20+ years, Sherrie said that it takes “experience and dedication.”

Sherrie continued, stating that “You can’t open a business and have a manager run it; you have to stay with your business. I’ve been offered franchises, but I don’t want to do that, because there’s only one of me.”

Truer words have never been spoken. There is absolutely only one Sherrie, and she has become as much of a fixture of The District as the restaurant itself. Known as much for her sass as her hash (browns), Sherrie is like the doting aunt who will always take you in but will be sure to give you a stiff kick in the rear when needed. It is this recipe of two-part angel, one-part devil that has ingratiated Sherrie to her staff, some of whom have been with her from the very beginning.

“My server has been with me almost 19 years,” Sherrie boasted. “My mom has been here since I opened. My other server has been with me since I opened and most of my other employees have been here at least 6 or 7 years. I’ve been very lucky.”

Yes, one of Sherrie’s employees is her mother. Tasked with rolling silverware, baking specialty pies and preparing the homemade dinner rolls, Sherrie’s mom works for 8 hours or more every day, just like the other employees. She is 85 years old.

It is not just Sherrie’s mother that is loyal to her, though. All of her employees would go into battle for Sherrie, fork and knife in tow. This is because Sherrie is loyal to them.

The key to that loyalty, according to Sherrie, is “about making them feel important and caring about their lives outside of the place.”

“With so many corporations, you’re a number on a paycheck and your productivity is all they care about,” she continued. “I think they would get more productivity if they had a little more compassion and if they cared about their employees and what their lives’ involve.”

Sherrie cares about her employees. She also cares about her customers and her community, noting that it is her customers that keep her coming back, day after day.

I thank [my customers] for supporting me,” Sherrie said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here. I really feel strongly about that. I love my customers. 9 times out of 10, I can tell you who my customers are and what they’re going to eat. I know if they’re having health problems, or who’s getting married, or who’s grandbaby that is. It’s a community thing in here.”

This is not the same community that existed 20 years ago, when Sherrie took her place. It has grown exponentially, especially in recent years, and she couldn’t be happier about that.

“When I first [opened this restaurant], I never imagined this to happen,” she stated. “I am so glad for the improvements. I have such good neighbors.  I know all the restaurant owners and we all kind of reciprocate. We scratch each other’s back and if I know I’m full, they get [my customers] and if they’re full, I get theirs. It’s helpful to everybody. We have to be a team to keep the area open.  I want to be good neighbors.”

As the veteran of The District, it is the other businesses that should feel obligated to be good neighbors to Sherrie’s Place, because she is unlikely to budge. When asked where she wants to see her place go from here, Sherrie stated that she “wants it to stay the same. I think that’s what makes it, the simplicity of it. It’s home cooking. I don’t put parsley on the plates. I keep everything very simple. You get a lot of food for the money and it’s not a generic thing; it’s something different. It’s real.”

Sherrie cuts all of her potatoes for French fries. She breads each chicken fried steak individually and cooks them to order. Her mother bakes bread and pies every day. It is real home cooking, and anything else is simply unacceptable. She is only open until 2pm, she only serves breakfast and lunch, and she is not, absolutely not, open on weekends, regardless of the potential profits.

“I had somebody call me recently who wanted to do some sort of promotion online, and I didn’t really understand it,” Sherrie stated. “I told him ‘I don’t do any of that,’ and he said ‘Well, Mother’s Day is coming up and you’re going to need the business.’”

“I said ‘I’m not open on Mother’s Day.’”

And that’s just how it is, that’s all. Sherrie does things her way because it works. She relies on word of mouth for her advertising and it hasn’t let her down yet.

“That’s another thing,” Sherrie started. “I don’t do Google. I don’t do Facebook. I don’t do Wi-Fi. I don’t check comments. I don’t look at Yelp. I let people tell me.”

When the people speak, she listens and adjusts accordingly. She may not budge on some things, but she is always willing to compromise on certain aspects.

Compromise, she said, is also the key to her marriage. Coincidentally, or not, if you believe in fate, Sherrie met her husband of 36 years inside the walls of her restaurant.

“When my parents owned this from ’76-’81, I actually met my husband in here,” Sherrie reminisced with a slight smile. “I was living across the street in the apartments, and he got an apartment there too. We were introduced by a mutual friend and it’s just so funny that we met in here and we still have the business.”

Funny, yes. But not unbelievable. Because for Sherrie, this place was always hers. It was her past and her present and it is her future. She has raised children within the walls of this restaurant. It was her children who named the restaurant “Sherrie’s Place,” because they knew that this place was just as much her home as their actual residence. Sherrie knows this, too.

“This is my house,” Sherrie said. “I love this place.  There’s a lot of warmth in here, a lot of years.”

Did Sherrie ever really have a choice about where her life would lead? Yes, she did. Sherrie Lopez is an intelligent, passionate, compassionate woman and she could have done anything she wanted to do. But she chose to open her home and her heart to the community. In exchange for that, she was given a husband, 3 children and 4 grandchildren. She created a family that extends much further than the walls of her restaurant. If home is where the heart is, then this entire community is Sherrie’s Place. So really, the question becomes: did we ever really have a choice?

Sherrie’s Place Restaurant is open Monday-Friday, 6:30 AM- 2:00 PM.

It is located at 314 W. Yellowstone Hwy and their phone number is 307-235-3513.

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By: Nick Perkins

Picture it- New York City in the sixties. It’s Spring; no, Autumn. The leaves are falling and the temperature is perfect and it looks like a photograph.

The star of this particular photograph is your grandmother. She is, in a word, elegant. Standing next to her best friend (who could have been her sister- they were that inseparable, she told you), she is beaming. She’s dressed from head to toe in an outfit that accentuates her positive features (there are many) and disguises her flaws (there are few). The photograph seems to have been taken while she wa laughing- her smile is that big, that bright, that…enchanting. She is beautiful, that’s all. In her hands, resting at her sides, are bags adorned with an all-too-familiar word: Macy’s.

She loved to shop, your grandmother. And Macy’s was her favorite. For her, indeed for most of her generation, shopping was more of a social activity than merely a means to an end. It was an event- something to look forward to, something to plan, something to be cherished. Every time your grandmother “went shopping,” she returned not just with expensive baubles, but with a memory.

Fast forward 60 years and times have most certainly changed. The invention of the internet has rendered shopping malls almost obsolete and the idea of “spending the day shopping” is no longer met with joy but, rather, with dread. Much like streaming services have eliminated the need to rent a movie from the video store, so too has online shopping hindered physical shops.

Still, though, there is a certain charm in entering a shop and spending an afternoon getting lost in the racks with one’s best friend. Luckily for those of us in The District, there is a myriad of shops and boutiques that still capture the idea and the feel of an age from long ago. One of these shops is Cooper’s Makeup and Clothing. This boutique, located in the historic Tripeny Building on Center Street, offers its own unique history and there is certainly more than meets the eye.

Cooper’s has only been in business for a few months, but it is an idea that has been in the works for a while, and it is the product of a dream of two women. One of those women is Cooper Cercy, who gives the store its namesake and some “street cred.” Cooper is a certified makeup artist who got her license in Las Vegas and, like her brother, she wanted to use her talents and resources to give something back to Downtown Casper. That “something” is Cooper’s Makeup and Clothing and if Cooper is the “face” of the shop, than Cassie Barker is most assuredly its hands, feet, heart and soul.

Barker is the General Manager of Cooper’s and has spent the past year making sure that this store is a worthy addition to The District.

“This is kind of my baby, too,” Barker said. “I was given this role last April and have really been in charge of picking out the lines, placing the orders, handling all of the renovations, getting all the equipment and furniture and really [designing] the whole layout.”

The layout is unlike any other store in Casper. Upon entering through the Center Street door, one is greeted with a slew of photographs taken throughout the years. These photographs show what Downtown Casper looked like in years past and they also show the various ways the Tripeny Building has served Casper. From a pharmacy, to a restaurant to, now, a clothing boutique, the Tripeny Building has housed many businesses throughout the years and Cooper and Cassie could not have picked a better location to make their dream come true.

After purchasing the building from former owner Will Yates, Cooper and Cassie set about turning it into something truly memorable.

“We wanted to provide those fresh, fun styles with those great brands at an affordable price,” Barker stated. “We want it to be a fun event to shop here; a fun experience.”

It is an experience that can be had by both men and women. Despite the name, Cooper’s Makeup and Clothing is not just a shop for women. They sell products for men, too, and they are excited to offer something for men and women of all ages and any means.

“The price ranges from $7 to $250, so it’s a pretty wide spectrum,” Barker confessed. “We have some very great, affordable pieces mixed in with our more high-end things as well. The goal was that everybody, of all ages and of any sex could walk in here and find something that they would like.”

In addition to the mid to high-end clothing options, Cooper’s also offers a variety of makeup services as well, including makeup lessons, group lessons, group events, full face services, eyes, eyebrows, eye lashes and more. Cooper is trained in each of those and she is determined to make individuals look as beautiful as they feel. They only use cruelty-free makeup lines and Cooper always has her finger on the pulse of “what’s hot/what’s not” when it comes to makeup and fashion. Cooper’s Makeup and Clothing offers the hottest labels for prices that are cheaper than what one could find online.

Barker said that Cooper’s is part of the Third Thursday Downtown crawl, which is just the latest example of events running through The District. There is a certain excitement in the air when it comes to Downtown Casper and everybody wants to be a part of it. Bar owners, restaurant owners, shop owners and more are all committed to the idea of making Downtown Casper a destination.

Barker stated that she believes adding another clothing boutique to The District is “a step in the right direction towards making this place feel like a downtown Fort Collins, where you can have a sense of community and have fun things to do.”

As more and more businesses pop up in The District, there will be more and more stories of individuals following their dreams and offering them to the community. Sometimes that vulnerability will be met with scrutiny from that very same community. Cooper’s certainly has been, for reasons completely out of their control. Every individual associated with Cooper’s Makeup and Clothing has put a lot of heart into that shop. They believe in it and they want it to be something the community believes in as well. They want to give The District a place to play, to shop, to create memories in.

Barker, in particular, pours her entire heart and soul into this shop, and she doesn’t regret a single second.

“I have worked very hard on this project,” she stated. “I told Cooper from the beginning ‘I know this is your baby, but I’m going to treat it like my baby because I think that’s what you need in a General Manager for the public to take it seriously.’”

“I have put every ounce of energy I could into this place,” she continued.

Walking into Cooper’s Makeup and Clothing, it is evident how much work, how much detail and how much love has been put into it. It is more than just a makeup store. It’s more than a clothing shop. It is the brainchild, the “baby,” so to speak, of two women who want to give their community special.

Shopping used to be an event. Macy’s was a destination. It was glamorous. It was something to look forward to. Before you could buy your entire wardrobe with the click of a button, you would walk into a store, you would try something on that made you feel beautiful and you would pretend, just for a minute, that you were in New York City, in the sixties.

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By: Nick Perkins

The date was May 5, 1862. Mexico and France were in the midst of battle, following the French occupation of Mexico.  The Mexican treasury was nearly bankrupt after two back to back wars- The Mexican-American War of 1846 and The Reform War, which lasted from 1858 to 1861. The Reform War pitted Liberals VS Conservatives (sound familiar?) and it left Mexico’s economy in dire straits. The President of Mexico issued a moratorium, suspending foreign debt for two years while Mexico got its s*** together. Spain, Britain and France did not like this decision. While Mexico was able to negotiate with Spain and Britain, France was having none of it and Napoleon III decided to invade Mexico and reshape it into his view of what it should be (also sound familiar?).

 

In late 1861, a French army of nearly 6,000 men invaded Mexico near Puebla. Mexico was ill-equipped, battling with an army of only 4,000 men but somehow, they overcame the French army. On May 5, 1862, Mexico soundly defeated the French and sent them packing. This became known as The Battle of Puebla, or for our Spanish-speaking readers, El Día de la Batalla de Puebla. It was the Mexican equivalent of “This is Sparta!!!” and it provided a significant morale boost to the people of Mexico.

 

So, they celebrated.

And celebrated.

And then they celebrated some more. May 5th, or Cinco De Mayo has become an officially-recognized holiday here in the United States. It’s less of a big deal there than it is here (because American will look for any excuse to party), but the people of Mexico do remember this day and hold it close to their hearts. It has become a day of celebration, of remembrance and of lots and lots of tequila.

In Mexico, citizens celebrate Cinco De Mayo with food, drink and dancing. With that in mind, we have compiled a list of the best places in The District to do each of those things. We just ask that you do them responsibly and with a little bit of reverence for the meaning of the actual holiday.

Cinco De Mayo in The District: Best Food Option

Sherries Place

If you are looking to start Cinco De Mayo off right, (and by that we mean traditionally and deliciously) there is no better place to go than Sherrie’s Place. Specializing in breakfast and lunch options, Sherrie’s place is a nondescript restaurant right in the heart of The District. It’s a small but packs a punch- just like the Mexican army during The Battle of Puebla. This is especially evident with their Chorizo and Swiss Omelet or their Bacon and Guacamole Omelet. Sherrie also makes a mean red or green chili that will have you begging for mercy just like the French did back in 1862. If you want authenticity when it comes to an awesome Mexican breakfast, then look no further than Sherrie’s Place. They’re only open until 2pm though, so make sure to get there early!

Cinco De Mayo in The District: Best Drink Option

Frosty’s Bar

The Battle of Puebla and the significance of Cinco De Mayo is important because it showed that sometimes, just sometimes, “the little guy” wins. It showed that it’s not how big you are, it’s how much heart you have. When it comes to heart, there is possibly no other bar in The District with as much of it as Frosty’s. While establishments such as The Gaslight Social and The Wonder Bar are great, there is something to be said about the small, intimate atmosphere of a good “dive bar” like Frosty’s. They don’t have a dance floor and the chair arrangement will require you to make friends quickly, but that is part of its charm.  It is a place that bonds people together over shared stories, similar experiences and standing up against adversity. It’s a place that offers diversity, encouragement and lots and lots of Tequila. They are sure to offer various drink specials on May 5th, so make sure that Frosty’s is at the top of your list for Cinco De Mayo Celebrations.

 

Cinco De Mayo in The District: Best Dance Option

In Mexico, celebrations usually consist of an inordinate amount of dancing. This is real dancing, too; none of that bump n’ grind that kids in America are doing these days. Dancing in Mexico is an expression of joy, especially on days like Cinco De Mayo. Luckily for folks in The District, Yellowstone Garage is planning an event that consists of not only dancing, but also food, drinks and poker! Because nothing screams “Mexican Pride” like poker. On May 5, Yellowstone Garage is promoting its “1st Annual Cinco De Mayo Poker Run.” This is an event that runs through The District and beyond. It begins at 9am at Moser Energy, runs through the City Park in Glenrock, the Lazy 8 Bar, the Town Pump and it finally ends in style at Yellowstone Garage. It is $20 for one hand and $30 for two with various prizes and giveaways throughout the entire run. Chicken tacos and chips are included with the run, and when everybody finally gathers at the Yellowstone Garage, it is sure to be a celebration for the ages. With room both inside the venue and outside on the patio to dance, there is no reason not to celebrate like this is Mexico’s Independence Day (which Cinco De Mayo isn’t, by the way…sometimes people confuse the two because we’re stupid Americans who don’t necessarily care about the reasons why we’re celebrating, just as long as we actually are celebrating). If you are looking to spend the entire day with friends, dancing and laughing and eating and drinking, then you should definitely sign up for the Yellowstone Garage 1st Annual Cinco De Mayo Poker Run.

May 5 was an important day for the Mexican people, and for the entire world. It was more than an excuse for future generations to drink Corona and eat tortilla chips until they passed out. It was a statement. It was a proclamation. It was a victory not only for the Mexican people, but for anybody who has ever faced adversity head on. It is a reminder that heart is more important than sheer mass. It is the ultimate example of the underdog and it deserves to be celebrated.

We’ve told you how and where and when to celebrate Cinco De Mayo in The District.

The most important thing to remember, though, when celebrating Cinco De Mayo…is why.

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