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2015-12-10 / Front Page

Oglala Lakota Couple Purchase White Clay Business

By Natalie Hand
Times correspondent


New store owners, Rhiannon & Martin Pilcher. 
Photo by Natalie Hand. New store owners, Rhiannon & Martin Pilcher. Photo by Natalie Hand. WHITECLAY, NE… Martin Pilcher had been an employee at Arrowhead Foods when it was known as “VJ’s”, the small border town grocery near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. When the owner sold the business, Martin left to focus on his insurance brokerage business and his construction company “Pine Ridge Builders”. However, when the grocery store was put back on the market for sale, Pilcher saw an opportunity.

Pilcher and his wife Rhiannon purchased the store with the assistance of Lakota Funds, a reservation-based lending company. The property also offered an attached residence, which was financed through Mazaska Owecaso Otipi Financial, that provides homeownership opportunities to tribal members.

“We see this as an opportunity to give this town a face lift.

We’re from Pine Ridge and this is the only native owned and operated business in White Clay. I believe that this will bring more customers to our store”, stated Pilcher.


Arrowhead Foods, Native owned and operated, New store owners, Rhiannon & Martin Pilcher. 
Photo by Natalie Hand. Arrowhead Foods, Native owned and operated, New store owners, Rhiannon & Martin Pilcher. Photo by Natalie Hand. Born and raised on the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the Pilchers know the negative stigma that the infamous border town conveys. With a population of only 13, White Clay is home to two grocery stores, two cafés, a pawn shop and 4 liquor stores that sell approximately 4 million cans of beer annually, mostly to the “dry” reservation residents.

“I went to school with many of the street people that I see in White Clay today. Once I explained to them that I bought the store, they have been very supportive and respectful. I treat them with kindness. No one understands what hardship they’re facing that brought them to the street. We don’t intend to look the other way if we see police brutality here in White Clay. We will confront it”, added Pilcher.


Arrowhead Foods employs all native staff including Jennifer Morton. 
Photo by Natalie Hand. Arrowhead Foods employs all native staff including Jennifer Morton. Photo by Natalie Hand. The Pilcher’s, along with their extended family, have worked feverishly over the last five weeks to revamp the store and have plans for future renovations. The store has sensors installed on their cooler units to ensure that refrigerated items, such as dairy goods, meats and frozen foods maintain proper temperature to prevent spoilage.

“If there is a power outage, or if a cooler were to malfunction, the sensor sends an instant text message to my phone and my electrician’s phone as well”, stated Pilcher.

Having taken official ownership on December 2nd, the couple is optimistic about the possibilities on the horizon. The new owners are working diligently to bring merchandise prices down to be more competitive with other grocers in the area.


Arrowhead Foods offers a fresh deli selection. 
Photo by Natalie Hand. Arrowhead Foods offers a fresh deli selection. Photo by Natalie Hand. “With the Tribe’s nursing home near completion on the south end of White Clay, there will be a lot more traffic in town and we’re hopeful that our business will benefit from this”, noted Pilcher. Pilcher’s Pine Ridge Builders was subcontracted to install the roofing and siding on the new nursing home facility.

According to Rhiannon Pilcher, the store’s full service deli counter is the star attraction. “Our chicken is made to order, hot and fresh. We sold over 650 pieces of fried chicken last Saturday alone”, stated Pilcher. The store offers delivery of large orders.

“Besides our chicken, we offer a lunch menu of homemade soups, walking tacos, super nachos and freshly prepared deli sandwiches. We have daily lunch specials as well, Monday through Saturday”, noted Pilcher. Daily specials are available on the store’s Facebook page.

The Pilcher’s are planning a “grand opening” sometime in January 2016.

Martin is the son of Sonny Pilcher of Rockyford/ Sharps and Jody Brewer of Pine Ridge; Rhiannon is the daughter of Shannon (Shangreaux) Richards of Pine Ridge and Fred Byerly of Porcupine. She was raised by her maternal grandparents, Calvin and Ethelene Shangreaux. The Pilchers have four children.

Arrowhead Foods is open Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Saturday from 9:00 am. - 5:00 p.m. and closed on Sunday.

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