Brothers Michael and Jonathan Standefer had a vision and ran with it! This family of passionate and driven entrepreneurs opened Sad Monkey Mercantile in November of 2022. Sad Monkey Mercantile, located one mile outside the Palo Duro Canyon, offers a unique experience to both tourists and locals. From hiking supplies to live music and food, there is something for every 'happy camper' at Sad Monkey Mercantile.
The Standefer family came to the SBDC in 2018 looking for guidance and assistance to launch their idea of opening an event venue. They worked closely with SBDC Regional Director Gina Woodward who was able to provide them with information and research on how to start their business.
We caught up with Michael to learn more about what Sad Monkey Mercantile is up to and what advice he has for other small businesses.
Year started: November 2022
Why did you start your business: My brother Jonathan (co-owner) and I wanted to bring something new to Palo Duro Canyon. Our family has a long history at the canyon. My grandfather Marvin started Sunday Canyon in 1965. My dad Mike and his partner Mack Dick developed residential lots in Palo Duro Canyon Estates and built many unique homes overlooking the canyon. We have also built a number of luxury rental cabins for Doves Rest Cabins owned by our friend Jeff Means. So Jonathan and I wanted to continue our family tradition at Palo Duro Canyon.
Favorite memory in the business: Seeing the building late at night after we were done with construction and had all of our shelves stocked and ready to open.
Most rewarding part of running a small business: We have been so pleased with the overwhelming positive response from our customers who are visiting the canyon, many for the first time. People love the convenience of buying camping goods/supplies and we take great satisfaction visiting with them on the patio as they enjoy our craft beer, wine or food from our truck.
Hardest part of running a small business: Any new business has trouble “getting off the launching pad”. Finding your initial employees, obtaining financing, deciding what items to stock, the frustrations that come with construction, finding the perfect spot etc. are all challenges that must be met and can be disheartening at times. These challenges have to be faced one at a time but once you “slay these dragons” your motivation is renewed daily.
How does the business get to positively impact your community: Very humbly I must say that people love it. From the start, Jonathan has wanted to create a place that he refers to as a “daycation”. Jonathan lived in Austin for the past 15 years and has always loved the “vibe”. In Austin you can sit on a patio, enjoy a beer and listen to live music. We feel we have brought that laid back vibe to the canyon. We take great joy providing a pleasurable experience to visitors to this part of Texas.
Biggest challenge in the business: Covid. As we were starting we were still in the midst of recovering from covid and supply chain issues. Getting things in stock and in a timely manner were incredibly difficult. Our building, which we built ourselves, took somewhat longer than we had anticipated.
What makes Sad Monkey Mercantile different from your competition: We feel we have a very unique situation with our convenience food store items, bar, coffee shop, retail outlet, food trailer and events center. We don’t think we’ve seen this combination before and love the synergy of how it all works together.
Best tip for others in business: It sounds cheesy but follow your dream. If you have a strong desire to make something happen give it a 110%. “Second winds” are another thing. You have it all going strong and then you come to a standstill out of nowhere. Just be patient and you’ll get that second wind that can carry you forward.
If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be? Northern Scotland. Before we started Sad Monkey our family had planned a trip to hike the trails of Scotland but we got too busy and it fell through. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to make the trip.