By Mead Gruver
The Associated Press
BUFORD PHINDELI TOWN, Wyo. (AP) — A Vietnamese businessman has raised a few eyebrows among Wyomingites by buying the remote outpost of Buford and tacking the name of a new coffee brand onto a place named 147 years ago for a civil war hero.
The hardy souls who live out here say they’re reassured their mailing addresses can remain just “Buford” and they won’t need to put the brand-name part that translated means “fine filtered coffee” on their mail.
They’re wondering, though, just what Pham Dinh Nguyen, 38, has in mind by turning their remote neck of the woods into a tactic for marketing to travelers along Interstate 80.
“We’re ranchers and we’re used to snow and cold and hard times,” Ellie Prince, who has a horse-riding school 12 miles down the road, said Tuesday. “Our first thought was, ‘How are they going to handle the winters?”’
Nguyen’s betting that the strong yet smooth Vietnamese coffee will be a hit with travelers.
The plan is to offer free samples to those who stop. People who like PhinDeli Fine Coffee can order online or, eventually, in Asian grocery stores.
“Buford, Wyoming, will be our symbolic coffee town. From here, we will spread to other parts of the U.S. and from there to other parts of the world,” Tuan Do, 44, CEO of the PhinDeli Corp. and Pham’s business partner, said in remarks at Tuesday’s grand reopening under the new ownership.
The building — a log-sided convenience store, gas station and local plowing service — now carries the PhinDeli Fine Coffee logo inside and out.
Buford originally was named for Maj. Gen. John Buford, who rose to fame by helping the Union keep the high ground during the Battle of Gettysburg. The town — which no longer has a post office, isn’t incorporated and can’t even be called a town any more, really — was established along the Transcontinental Railroad.
The 8,000-foot spot is close to the highest place along I-80 and notorious for wind and cold.
It’s the only place to buy gas — or anything else to speak of — between Cheyenne and Laramie in southeast Wyoming. The highway gates close several times during an average winter, leaving the handful of ranchers and other tough souls who live out here for the nature and solitude to rely on their provisions and each other.
“I like the neighborhood. No neighbors,” said Buford’s new round-the-clock caretaker, Fred Patzer, who’s in the process of moving there from Fort Collins, Colo.
Don Sammons was Buford’s proprietor for 32 years, moving there from Huntington Beach, Calif. He bought the place in 1992.
After his wife left, and then his son, he billed himself as the town’s sole remaining inhabitant. However, the fun of running the remote outpost wore off a few years ago, he said.
His son wasn’t interested in taking over, he said, so last year he put the place up for auction. The buyer, with a winning bid of $900,000, was Nguyen, who runs a trade and distribution company in Saigon.
“Is he crazy? Does he just want to own an American town?” Nguyen recalled fellow Vietnamese asking.
Vietnam is the world’s second-leading coffee producer, after Brazil, but has few international brands of its own and very few in the U.S., he said.
But will he attempt to live in Buford? Not exactly: He’s planning to split his time between his businesses in Vietnam and now Wyoming, he said.
He’s retained Sammons, who has moved to Loveland, Colo., to help out part-time with certain details of the business, such as permits.
The new guy year-round will be Patzer, who said he’s no stranger to harsh winter weather. He’s helped run ranches in the region and helped out in Buford when Sammons owned it, he said.
Now, Patzer is moving into the modular home on the 10-acre property. He’s fixing the brakes on the 1962 Ford pickup used to plow the local roads, he said, and stocking up for the long winter ahead.
He’s also moved his hot tub up from Colorado.
“I’ve got everything I need,” he said. (end)