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A new 'Badlands' attraction pops up in South Dakota

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- On the far west side of South Dakota are the popular Mount Rushmore, Black Hills and Badlands. There's even Wall Drug and its 5-cent coffee..

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The spacious main floor of the giant pawn shop in Sioux Falls, S.D., will be transformed into a concert venue every Thursday night. The retail displays are moved out and there is seating for about 1,600 people in the room and balcony area, which also features suites. No one at the concerts is more than 60 feet from the stage. (Barry Amundson / Forum News Service)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- On the far west side of South Dakota  are the popular Mount Rushmore, Black Hills and Badlands. There’s even Wall Drug and its 5-cent coffee..

Now on the far east side of the state in Sioux Falls is another Badlands attraction. Only this one is the Badlands Pawn, Guns, Gold & Rock ‘n Roll.

It’s no ordinary pawn shop. The builders are hoping it becomes a regional destination spot similar to those long-established west-side tourist attractions.

Although it’s mostly designed to be a pawn shop, it’s also an entertainment center with mostly well-known musicians playing every Thursday night, a gun shop with a 14-lane shooting range, the home to a new city rock n’ roll radio station, a place to stop for lunch or dinner  with its own deli and it’s also the home to $1 million in gold bars in a permanent display.

The newly opened business -- open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily -- is found on the north side of Sioux Falls in a fast-developing entertainment district with the year-old 12,000-seat Denny Sanford Premier Center, city’s convention center and professional baseball stadium across the street.

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It’s the brainchild of Sioux Falls native and multimillionaire Chuck Brennan, who grew up only about six blocks away from the business.

Brennan owns Dollar Loan Center and got his start as a concert promoter who still dabbles in that business. He says the 70,000-square-foot attraction is not only as another business opportunity, but as another chance to give back to his hometown, according to Badlands general manager Steve Przybocki who met Brennan in Las Vegas.

Przybocki proudly talks about the new facility and its amenities -- adding that Brennan doesn’t do anything “if it’s not first class”

Since it opened Thanksgiving weekend, he said it’s already drawing visitors from throughout the region, including the Twin Cities and Omaha, Neb. There are billboards up from Kansas City to the south and Watertown to the north and in Rapid City to the west and in Minneapolis to the east.

“This is the new Badlands,” he said referring to one of the wonders of the world in western South Dakota. And it’s just off Interstate 90 -- the highway that also takes visitors to all of those other tourist spots on the other end of the state.

And the place is kind of a wonder. In fact in promoting the business, Przybocki said they like to say it could become known as the “Disney World of the Midwest.”

Visitors and employees say they sure like the place.

“We just love it. It’s awesome,” said Kyia Norton of Sioux Falls, who was watching her husband get a free “Badlands” logo tattooed on his chest in the store’s tattoo parlor run by artist Joe Frink.

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She said her and her husband have already been to the business about six or seven times since it opened.

Employee Jennifer Miller, who works behind the shop’s jewelry counter, also said she loves the place.

“I never feel like I’m working. It’s more like a party all day long with the music playing and meeting all of the visitors,” said the former customer service manager.

“I just feel like I can be myself here,” Miller said.

She said the jewelry counter -- a main part of the pawn business -- has bridal sets ranging in price from $99 to more than $30,000.

They also offer Rolex watches, pendants and pearl necklaces, as a few examples, she said.

It’s part of a wide-ranging selection at the business that also includes a music room with more than 300 guitars, a large selection of firearms and accessories in the gun shop in another more secure area of the building, a mint where they offer pure silver and gold medallions, and Badlands-labeled clothing of all types. Then there are many of the items found in other pawn shops such as electronics, tools and “just about something for everyone,” Przybocki said.

“We have thousands of items and they are changing them out constantly,” he said. “We have everything as they say from rabbit suits to ugly sweaters.”

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Perhaps the strangest item so far is a 6-foot tall wooden horse.

The items are all on display in a huge room that has one of South Dakota-based Daktronics largest video screens behind a stage for the concerts.

Later every Thursday, the room is cleared and the concerts begin.  Being a promoter with connections in the industry, Brennan has many national touring acts ready to hit the stage starting in January and booked through May including Rick Springfield, Joan Jett, KISS, Steppenwolf, Loverboy, April Wine and Megadeth. The place also has its own “house band” that will be performing from time to time.

Przybocki said it will be one of the premiere intimate concert locations in the nation as all of the 1,600 guests are all within 60 feet of the stage. Besides the main floor, there are balcony VIP  tables that can be reserved and several posh suites overlooking the stage.

Of course, promotion is a big part of the business. From a helicopter perched on one corner of the outside of the building to draw attention to the shop to the radio station and television studio, it’s a major promotional operation.

The radio station -- KBAD--  is quickly becoming catching on and in something unique to today’s world there are live disc jockeys on the air 24/7. The television studio is where weekly shows are produced and then aired on the local FOX affiliate.

Then there’s the million dollars in gold that’s worth a look. “It doesn’t really look like it’s a million, but it’s really a million,” Przybocki said as he points out it’s on display behind two plates of bullet-proof glass.

There’s certainly a lot to see, and Przybocki doesn’t want people to forget about the 5-cent coffee either.  That’s because all of the money raised from the coffee sales goes to Brennan’s Rock ‘n Roll Academy just blocks away from the Badlands -- and a another place where the entrepreneur is giving back to his hometown.

The academy offers free music lessons to all the underprivileged children in the Boys and Girls Clubs in the city. Another sharp looking building, the academy also has a stage and offers a place for budding musicians to learn the business.

Przybocki recalls a story about one of the young musicians who started at the academy who was so shy that she would cry when she got on stage. Now she’s a budding rock star with all of the confidence in the world.

She, too, might one day be on the stage in the Badlands shop -- a place where Brennan and other staff also show a lot of confidence in what’s ahead at one of South Dakota’s newest attractions.

Related Topics: BADLANDS
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