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Story #96Alkali Ike ToursDeadwood, SD

In a small town, you know almost everybody. There’s a lot of gratitude in that.

In the historic town of Deadwood, S.D., the Wild West still lives. There, Mike and Lisa Kitzmiller run the small business, Alkali Ike Tours, a residential bus tour company that educates visitors on the history of the town and its legendary residents. The husband and wife duo offers tours six days a week, from May through October, taking visitors through historic downtown Deadwood and Mt. Moriah cemetery, where Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and more are buried. 

Alkali Ike Tours was formerly owned by friends of the Kitzmillers who suggested that they take over the business when they no longer wanted to run it. For the Kitzmillers, it was a perfect opportunity, seeing as both had backgrounds in marketing and enjoy working with people. While Lisa Kitzmiller handles the booth and ticket sales, Mike Kitzmiller drives the bus and narrates the tour.

Although Alkali Ike Tours is not the only tour bus company in Deadwood, the Kitzmillers pride themselves on having been selected as the best short tour in a five-state area. When it comes to setting themselves apart from competitors, Mike Kitzmiller says, “You can’t have a bad day when you’re in public service because word of mouth advertising is the best you’re going to get.” They also capitalize on the many tourist buses that come through Deadwood by offering a step-on guide service, in which they board a tour company’s coach and give them a tour through Deadwood and Lead. 

Rather than offering tours seven days a week like many of their competitors, Alkali Ike Tours are open six days a week. For the Kitzmillers, being able to take Fridays and other days off here and there is one of the benefits of owning their own business. “That’s a great comfort,” says Mike Kitzmiller.

In the future, the pair hopes their son will take over the business, keeping it in the family. “Of course, everything hinges on what he wants to do,” says Kitzmiller. Until then, “To be able to work with my beautiful wife, that’s another plus. If you enjoy your job then it’s not like work.”

 

Photos by Nadav Neuhaus

  • Mike and Lisa Kitzmiller stand in front of their tour bus. The couple took over the business from friends and are its sole employees.

  • Alkali Ike Tours include Deadwood’s Main Street and some of the town’s historic buildings and homes, as well as a trip through Mt. Moriah cemetery, where infamous residents like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried.

  • Mike and Lisa Kitzmiller hope to pass the family business on to their son Luke, if he is interested in taking it over. Currently a sophomore in high school, Luke plays the Sundance Kid in the town’s reenactments.

  • Deadwood residents reenact a shootout on historic Main Street.

  • Alkali Ike Tours offer visitors a taste of the daily Wild West shows on Main Street in Deadwood, S.D., for which some residents dress up in period costumes.

  • Residents of Deadwood, S.D. reenact the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok in a saloon.

  • Downtown Deadwood, S.D. The town draws many tourists due to its Wild West history. “Our role as a tour business is to give people the correct and true history of what happened in the old west, and what made Deadwood famous,” says Mike Kitzmiller of Alkali Ike Tours.

  • The grave of Wild Bill Hickok, a legendary figure in the Wild West, who was killed in a saloon in Deadwood. Mt. Moriah Cemetery, where his grave is located, is a stop on the Alkali Ike Tours route.

  • Deadwood, S.D., home to Alkali Ike Tours. The small business is named after a gold miner from the 1800s, and one of the facts visitors learn on the tour is that the neighboring Black Hills were the site of the single largest gold discovery in North America.

  • Customers board the Alkali Ike Tours bus in Deadwood, S.D. “You can’t have a bad day when you’re in public service, because word of mouth advertising is the best you’re going to get,” says Mike Kitzmiller.

  • Lisa Kitzmiller works the Alkali Ike Tours booth and sells tickets, while Mike Kitzmiller drives the bus and narrates the tour.

  • Mike Kitzmiller of Alkali Ike Tours. Together, Mike and his wife Lisa run the small business, which offers tours of historic Deadwood, S.D.

Business Details

Proprietor: Mike and Lisa Kitzmiller
657 Main Street Deadwood, SD 57732
PH: 605-578-3147 / Website
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