GARDINER — Gardiner, a highly trafficked gateway community to Yellowstone National Park, is seeing little foot traffic as its entrance to the park remains closed.
Picnic benches are empty, crosswalks are quiet, and some restaurants and hotels have decided to remain closed throughout the season: the wake of the flooding in Gardiner has already shaken this small community.
Rebecca Stoneberger, the owner of the coffee stand Bears Brew, estimates that 200 to 500 people stop in for coffee in Gardiner when the park entrance is open.
Now, things are different.
“I’m going to say about 100 (people) at best,” Stoneberger said. “Some days I only see maybe 20.”
Stoneberger grew up in Bozeman, and after some time away from the Treasure State returned to Gardiner to start a new chapter of her life. Trained in the culinary arts, Stoneberger found a natural fit in the food and beverage industry of the community.
“I found this little shack in West Yellowstone in a junkyard, and I had it moved over here in October of 2021, and I opened December 1st so I haven’t even opened one year yet,” Stoneberger said.
On Monday, June 13, the flooding of the Yellowstone River began, with videos, photos, rescues, and more following. Not hesitating, Stoneberger began working to help her community through her business and her time. On Friday, she made a trip to Bozeman to get water for her fellow business owners—so they can get open and begin serving locals and visitors.
“We’ve had COVID, we had the fire and now we want to build Gardiner back, let’s support each other and get back on the board,” Stoneberger said.
Locals often patron Stoneberger’s store, the passerby and family as well, but she hopes that other Montanans will make the trip to Gardiner.
“We need every little bit,” Stoneberger said, “If you’ve never experienced Gardiner, then come and create your dream, that’s pretty much what we need to do. We’ve had so much catastrophe happen the past three years, that there’s so much newness here that we can create your dream.”