Appreciation for going on the record

Getting local business owners to open up about lottery dollars proved to be a daunting task.

(Nathalie Hardy/N-R reporter) The truth is, I like most of the people I get to interview. But every now and again I meet someone whose story stays with me long after I close my notebook.

Wes Ferguson, Jr., owner of McMinnville’s Stampede Barbecue Company, happens to be one of those people. Not only did his personal story resonate with me, although most of it was to share another time, it was his willingness to go on the record with the truth about the two-faced elephant in the room: video lottery dollars.

Most of the other local restaurant and tavern owners I talked to agreed the state gaming terminals were a “necessary evil.”

While I respect the preference of those who didn’t want to talk with me about the lottery’s impact on business, I appreciate that Ferguson did because it helped me write a more honest account of the lottery’s lure.

Ferguson was the only one willing to open his books and show me the receipts to illustrate the dilemma faced by himself, and many others like him: restaurant owners trying to make a living during a recession.

Part of the story Ferguson shared with me was that he knows all too well what hungry feels like. Even though it was more than three decades ago that he collected bottles along Route 66 to help feed his siblings, the memory is as clear as the glass he recycled for food.

But, he said after resisting the advice from industry colleagues to have the machines, he gave in and installed them to help make ends meet. He said he figured that people who wanted to play were going to go somewhere, so why not where he might be able to serve them some good food and engage those who want to talk in a good conversation about getting through hard times, it happens to be something he knows a thing or two about.

See Friday's issue of the News-Register for more about the economics of state gambling and how it worked out for Ferguson. 

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