Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 15, 2008



John Verkamp worked as a clerk at the Babbit’s General Store in Flagstaff, Arizona. It was hard to make a living and support a family as a clerk, but John Verkamp had an entrepreneurial spirit. In 1903 he decided to go to the Grand Canyon, about 70 miles north of Flagstaff, and go into business for himself. He knew that the Canyon was becoming quite a tourist destination, especially with the advent of the Santa Fe railroad spur to the Canyon and the construction of the El Tovar Hotel near the rim of the Canyon.

John quickly established a business relationship with the various Indian tribes in the vicinity and offered to sell their wares to Canyon tourists. He staked a tent not far from the Canyon rim and not too far from the El Tovar Hotel itself. It proved to be a profitable venture so he brought his growing family to the Canyon and constructed a wooden building to house his retail store and it was also where he and his family lived on the second floor.

"Verkamp’s, Inc." was in full operation when I first visited the Canyon around 1955 and during all of my seven return visits to the south rim, Verkamp’s continued to operate in the same facility. In fact, generation after generation of Verkamps continued to provide an outlet to the Indian tribes and developed a reputation with suppliers and buyers alike as an honest, straightforward, fair business venture. It was a family run business with each successive generations working behind the counters and learning all the aspects of the retail business. 

The Verkamps did not get rich, but they reached a modicum of success as they continued to live above the store. John Verkamp’s risk-taking, hard work, and skill paid off providing his family and those to follow with good, honest work.

Verkamp’s has always carried high-quality products and provided pleasant, courteous service to their customers and their plan was to continue to providing that service, but Verkamp’s is closing. That’s what I learned when my wife and I recently visited the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Verkamp’s is closing not by choice, but because big, powerful, intrusive government has decided that they don’t want Verkamp’s (or any of the independent merchants) in the National Parks. 

Verkamp’s, an honorable and sound business, is being forced out of business because it doesn’t fit into the plans of the Interior Department of the US Government. It seems that the bureaucrats want more control (when do they not?) and one way to get that control is to force Independents (as they are called) and In-Holders (those whose private property is located within a national park and predates creation of the park) out of our National Parks. In legal terms, this is "taking," in plain, raw terms it’s legalized theft.

The government’s aim is to have just one concessionaire in each national park thus giving the government more control and incidentally eliminating all competition. In economic terms it is government control of economic enterprises. It’s not socialism, which believes in government ownership of all economic enterprises. It’s fascism which by definition advocates government control of all economic enterprises.

In human terms it is just sad. The thought that a sole entrepreneur could risk all to make a living and succeed in taking care of his family only to be eliminated by a government bureaucrat who would never take such a personal risk is aggravating at best. 

Government is supposed to protect the individual, not oppress him, yet that is exactly what the government has done and is doing in the case of Independents and In-Holders in our National Parks. 

For shame, for shame! America needs more John Verkamp’s and fewer bureaucrats… but don’t hold your breath!

No comments:

Post a Comment