BROOKINGS – Need a taxi to take you from Brookings to Sioux Falls Regional Airport?
Dial 605-690-8173. You can reach Simon Nguru, owner, manager and operator of Brookings Taxi. This phone number will also connect you to the owner of the 254 Gift Shop at 224 Main Ave. in downtown Brookings. That is also Nguru: he runs the newly opened shop with his wife Cecilia and his mother Magdalene.
The “254” is the international code for Kenya, the homeland of Simon, his wife and his wife’s mother. Simon and Cecilia have two daughters, Wisdom (7) and Kristel (1), both born in Brookings.
âEverything is about Africa,â says Simon, explaining the new shop. It had its grand opening on Juneteenth. It offers wall decorations, wood and soft stone carvings of African animals, pearl jewelry, Ankara clothing, woven handbags, sandals, engraved gifts and all kinds of clothing for men, women and children
âPeople like brightly colored things, brightly colored clothes, and brightly colored clothes,â he added. “If you come in here, you will find brightly colored scarves, handbags.”
Fans of “The Lion King” will recognize and be familiar with the Swahili phrase “hakuna matata”, which translated means “do not worry”. Customers can find it embossed on some of the garments at 254.
In addition to their downtown Brookings store, the Ngurus explore other places to display and sell their wares.
Cecilia said the booth they set up in front of Pioneer Park during the recent Brookings Summer Arts Festival sold well and they will soon be heading to a craft show in Marshall, Missouri.
Soon, Simon will be traveling to Kenya to buy more African goods and arrange for the continued shipment of inventory for her shop. One item he gets are hoodies. “It gets a little cold with autumn,” he said.
“I thought we have a lot of very good stores in town, but we have no place to introduce anything new,” he said of his decision to open 254. âThe city is growing and everyone comes from everywhere.
âMy goal is to get all kinds of customers, people from here and from international (places), people who come here to stay. I want people to feel at home, âhe said.
You call, we haul
Before bringing his family with him and settling them here, Simon had his own cumbersome trip to Brookings. Born and raised in Kenya, Africa, he came to New York in October 2009. He worked for a cleaning company for a few years. In 2011, he moved to Minneapolis and attended North Hennipen Community and Technical College in Brooklyn Park, where he earned an associate degree in criminal justice and law enforcement. He also had a production job. He now had friends at South Dakota State University.
âWe grew up together in Kenya,â explains Simon. âI came to visit and I liked the place. That’s why I decided to move here (2014). âIn 2015 he became a US citizen. From 2014 to 2019 he worked for three different industrial companies in Brookings.
The 254 Gift Shop is Simon’s second entrepreneurial venture in Brookings. His first started in 2019 when he bought the Yata Taxi service, which is now simply called Brookings Taxi.
âWe drag a lot of people with us, and we like to do that,â he said. His taxi serves Arlington, Sioux Falls (including the airport), Aurora, Brookings, Volga, and Watertown. This is the long haul.
âThe cities that don’t have a taxi are calling us,â he said. “We set out for two hours to take someone with us.”
“We go everywhere,” he added with a laugh. âWe went to Vermillion to get someone to take them to the airport because they have no way of getting there.
âAnd the nightlife, also during the day, helps stranded people, the taxi is a great help. You call, we haul, âsaid Nguru. Laughing, he added: “I like to say, ‘You pay, we go.'”
Contact John Kubal at [emailÂ protected]