Nick and Liisa Frei, The Dutchman's Story
In 1986, as we were preparing to welcome our third child to our family, we began building Dutchman’s Market, a gas station/convenience store in the historic little town of Santa Clara, Utah. Nick’s roots run deep in the red sands of Southern Utah, as his ancestors were some of the original pioneers to settle Santa Clara. Nick grew up cattle ranching with his father and the other cowboys in the Santa Clara Cattle Company. He loved working along side the older cowboys and learned there are few things that can’t be fixed with duct tape and baling wire. He would fall asleep in the old Dutchman’s Ranch bunk house, listening to the cowboys tell their tall tales and learning to sleep through the sounds of eight men snoring, as it echoed through the cabin. He watched as his dad would laugh and joke and seem to get happier the harder the job was, making backbreaking work seem to be desirable, instead of dreaded. Spending long days on a saddle in beautiful, rugged country was Nick’s happy place.
We met in 1980 while attending college in St. George, Utah. We married in 1981 and moved to Ogden, Utah, Liisa’s hometown. Nick received an accounting degree from WSU and worked in accounting for a couple of years. Though our love for the people and mountains of Ogden is deep, we heard the call of the desert and headed back south, once again to ranch with Nick’s father. After a couple of lean years, it became apparent that we would need an additional source of income to support our growing family. Out of that need, the idea to create a little market was born. We dreamed of a place that would be a gathering spot for the community. Somewhere you could grab a bite to eat and have a freshly baked cookie for dessert.
While Liisa worked on convincing the bank that, of course, they should lend lots of money to a young couple, who were still in their early 20’s, had two kids with one on the way, and no business experience whatsoever. Nick began to build the store, drawing on his skills learned on the ranch and while working for his uncle as a teenager. He did every single thing he could possibly do by himself, including building the tables and booths for the dining room, enlisting help from his buddies who were always ready to lend a hand. Liisa was in charge of the decorating. She painted and stenciled walls and wallpapered the dining room (these things were all the rage in the 80’s), all the while her two littles ran wild through the empty store.
Now as we reflect back over 36 years, we see that this little business has been our family’s classroom and the lessons we continue to learn along the way have been invaluable. Providing the opportunity for our six children to grow up stocking shelves and scooping cookies; learning that having fun, while working hard, can help you ride the ups and downs of running a small business. Our grandchildren are happy to be our official product testers, whether it’s a cookie from the bakery or the latest creation from Maileg. They continue to be our motivation to keep going. Even after a devastating flood or a world wide pandemic, we have learned how to roll with the punches and shift with the times. In a world filled with big box stores and a franchise on every corner, you will still find Dutchman’s Market standing in the beautiful little town called Santa Clara.
Where else can you fill up your tank, grab a drink and handmade pizza, while picking out the perfect gift from our boutique? Of course you don't want to leave without picking up one, or better yet a dozen of our famous cookies made fresh in our bakery.
Come visit us today at: