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Thune visits Wagner business' grand opening

WAGNER--A pair of first-time Wagner business owners received a special visit at their shop's grand opening Monday. Brenda and Joey Jaton purchased the former Weisser Oil building following a burglary in which Dean Honomichl and Tara Smejkal, both...

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From left, Chris Kokesh, Sen. John Thune, Brenda Jaton and Joey Jaton pose for a photo at the Jatons' business, MidTowne Oil & Wash in Wagner. Thune surprised the first-time business owners by showing up to the business' grand opening celebration Monday. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Tjeerdsma)

WAGNER-A pair of first-time Wagner business owners received a special visit at their shop's grand opening Monday.

Brenda and Joey Jaton purchased the former Weisser Oil building following a burglary in which Dean Honomichl and Tara Smejkal, both of Wagner, broke into the building and stole approximately $7,000. Honomichl pleaded guilty to third-degree burglary, a class 5 felony, on March 21 in Mitchell, and Smejkal pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting a third-degree burglary, a class 5 felony, on the same day. Sentencing is scheduled for May 11.

The robbery ultimately led then-co-owners Brian and Gregg Weisser to sell the business. But the building's story continued when the Jatons opened a new-but-similar business, MidTowne Oil & Wash, at the same location, and the grand opening celebration Monday got even sweeter when U.S. Sen. John Thune arrived.

Thune, who was in the area visiting the Tyndall Rotary Club, the Yankton Sioux Tribe's correctional facility, Marty Indian School and the Wagner Indian Health Service facility, stopped in, unannounced, surprising Brenda Jaton.

"My mom told me he was here, and I was like, 'Yeah, right,' " Jaton said. "Then, sure enough, there he was."

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Thune told Jaton since he was in the area and heard about the business' story and the grand-opening celebration, he thought it would be worthwhile to visit while he was in the area.

The visit lasted less than 20 minutes, but Thune visited with customers and posed for pictures with several people in attendance, making a special day even more memorable.

"It was kind of out of the blue, but that's pretty neat," Jaton said. "It was just a few minutes, but it was long enough."

The town has been buzzing with excitement that a state leader was in town, and many have commented on "how exciting it is" when they have shopped at the store throughout the week.

And for Jaton, a lifelong Wagner resident, the visit and the support from the community has validated the decision she and her husband made to continue the operation. According to Jaton, there is no other businesses in Wagner that provide tire and other car services, car washes, vehicle supplies, fishing bait and tackle, a convenience store and more all in one place like MidTowne Oil & Wash.

"When (Weisser Oil) decided to close, it was sad to see this business, right in the middle of town, a big business with all of the stuff to offer, close," Jaton said. "My husband was looking for a career change (from truck driving) ... so we decided to try to make it into a family business. It's been tremendous support ... It's really overwhelming, and we're really thankful."

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