BBQ Restaurant in Valentine, NE, Talks Small Business Week

May 6, 2022, 5 p.m. ·

Patio of Rocco's Pizza and Cantina in Omaha.
Small businesses make up a large portion of Nebraska's economy, with more than 180,000 businesses. (Photo courtesy of Rocco's Pizza and Cantina)

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This week has been Small Business Week across the nation. The week highlights small businesses and raises awareness of their importance to Nebraska’s economy.

There are more than 180,000 small businesses in Nebraska, according to the Small Business Administration. Courtney and Heath Bristol own and operate one of them - Bulldoggers BBQ in Valentine, Nebraska.

They aren’t immune to supply and worker shortage issues. Nevertheless, Heath is hopeful for the future.

“I think everything’s looking actually pretty bright. We are trending upwards,” Bristol said. “Because of the worker shortage, I had to completely re-brand my restaurant from a burgers and fries [restaurant] to a southern barbeque [restaurant].”

Marketing its brand change comes from Facebook and Google in a community the size of Valentine. Word-of-mouth advertising helps too, and Small Business Week can help slip Bulldoggers into the conversation.

Tim Mittan is the Nebraska district director for the Small Business Administration, which sponsors the week. He said the organization’s goal includes elevating small businesses to show their importance in Nebraska.

“We want to ensure that small businesses know how important they are to our communities, to our livelihoods, and to our everyday life throughout the entire state,” Mittan said.

Bristol agreed.

“We’re not a corporate state. We’re an agricultural state,” Bristol said. “I lived in the cities. I’ve been in Jacksonville, Florida, for the last 12 years. Before that, I was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, so I’ve seen all aspects of it all the way around. And the small businesses here in Nebraska, bar none, one of the better [states] - just based on the fact that that’s what’s out here.”

Grants and loans have been available over the course of the pandemic for small businesses, but Bristol hopes more can follow during the supply chain and worker struggles.