Connect: ‘A great town to raise kids in’

Macke’s Grocery has been a key for keeping Mullen’s downtown district in business. “The grocery store is still viable, which is not the case in some small towns,” said Dave Sullivan, Hooker County Clerk.

The first thing people who don’t live in Mullen say about the town is that it is the home of two professional golf courses, Sandhills and Dismal River.

The townsfolk appreciate that and acknowledge the benefits derived from the employment offered at those venues, but that is not all that makes Mullen a great place to live.

“There are things I like about the town and things that are a little different,” said Dave Sullivan, Hooker County Clerk. “The reason people like it here is the rural community. The economy is stable in the sense that we have a nursing home and a school that’s pretty regular employment.

“The grocery store is still viable, which is not the case in some small towns.”

Mullen was founded in 1888 and Hooker County became official in 1889.

Sullivan has lived in Mullen for most of his life.

“I was born in Alliance, but my family has lived in Mullen for about three generations,” Sullivan said. “I moved back here in the ’80s after college, marriage and a short stint on the West Coast.”

One reason Sullivan said he and his family moved back to Mullen was because of the small-town feel.

“We lived in Tacoma, Washington, when we starting thinking about having kids and it was not a place I wanted to raise kids,” Sullivan said. “Mullen is a much more managable, village-type atmosphere where everybody knows who your kids are and if they’re misbehaving they’ll call you and tell you. It is a fairly close-knit community, but still room enough to be an individual here.”

Along with the two golf courses, Sullivan said there are several businesses in town that do well.

“The grocery store employs a lot of minimum wage people and they don’t cycle through a lot,” Sullivan said. “The nursing home has been a good employer. They’ve lately had more trouble retaining the licensed personnel they need to function, but they’re managing fairly well.”

He said the school system has been a major employer just like it is in any small town.

“The golf courses, between the two of them, manage to employ a few households they’ve moved in for their permanent positions,” Sullivan said. “The seasonal work is paid well enough that people will quit a regular job and go do that for 5½ months.”

Lacie Lietka is a cosmetologist who has lived in Mullen with her fiancee now for about 3½ years. She grew up in Crawford so is familiar with the area.

“I went to beauty school at Joseph’s College of Beauty in North Platte for 6 months, but then the weather got bad and I didn’t want to drive to North Platte,” Lietka said. “I took about a year off and then finished up in McCook.”

During that year off, she worked for the bank in Mullen and there are a lot of things she likes about the town.

“Obviously, I like the small-town atmosphere,” Lietke said. “I think about later on when after we get married and we’re going to have kids, it’s just a great town to raise our kids in.”

She said everybody looks out for you and is friendly.

“I just feel like I’m at home,” Lietka said. “I’ve never felt like I was not welcome.”

The people in Mullen, she said, have treated her well.

“I have made very good relationships with pretty much everybody,” Lietka said. “I’m really happy I took the job at the bank because I got to meet a lot more people than I ever would have if I didn’t work at the bank.”

Jessica Hampton has lived in Mullen for 15 years and it was marriage that brought her to town. She is married to Travis Hampton and they have two children.

“At the time, he was working for his dad’s well drilling business, Hampton’s Well Drilling, and about five years ago we bought it out,” Hampton said. “I work at the Hooker County Courthouse in the Clerk’s Office.”

She, like Lietka, appreciates the small-town feel of Mullen.

“You know everyone, which is a plus and a minus, but you have the opportunity to feel safe and secure here,” Hampton said. “There’s enough businesses that you don’t have to leave town unless you really want to. People are caring and come forward when you need them.”

She said they have a great school system.

“Classes aren’t huge, but not super small and they have great teachers,” Hampton said. “So it’s easy to want to be here with the options that we have.”

Hampton likes the fact the community continues to build its retail presence.

“We’ve had a boutique that opened in the last year and that’s been a nice bonus because they saw that we were all ordering online or going out of town, so they put one in town so we don’t have to travel,” Hampton said. “There is also a shop that does screen printing and she does a ton of business.”

There are plans for Kwik Stop and Hampton said her mother-in-law has a coffee shop that offers good java.

“It’s just a to-go coffee in the back of her insurance agency and they do great,” Hampton said. “People just like that different cup of coffee and it’s an option they can go get.”

Hampton said the people do a good job of supporting local businesses.

“A few years ago I’d say people were more apt to do things online,” Hampton said. “But I would say as businesses see that they are really trying to provide what people need and how can we help.”

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