Our Town Cozad: Planting Roots

Published: Aug. 21, 2019 at 10:08 AM CDT
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In many smaller communities, there is often a concern that young people are leaving. But in Cozad, the opposite seems to be happening.

Susan Kuhlman grew up in Cozad, but raised her family in Minneapolis. She returned to town, and in March of this year, she opened the 242 House restaurant. The business concept: world class food and conversation. "We want people to meet around our tables and find somebody they haven't seen in 35 years, meet somebody new that is pulling off the interstate to have a great meal," Kuhlman said.

She and her husband say they returned to Cozad in part to be closer to family. Kuhlman is glad she made the move, and says many people are returning. "There are so many businesses, some of them are fourth generation," Kuhlman said. "So children that are my children's age are coming back and being a part of those family businesses. So it really gave us a great confidence to know that if we built something, the younger generation would come to enjoy it."

TaraLea Davis and Marcus Kloepping are also originally from Cozad, and they also went away to pursue college and a career.

TaraLea says her husband Tim had a dream to come back to Cozad to practice dentistry. "Tim always knew when he started dental school that he wanted to start his own business, he knew he wanted to be on his own and the stars kind of aligned for us," David said. A long-time dentist was retiring at the time Tim was graduating from dental school. So, they returned and now operate Davis Family Dental.

Marcus Kloepping is the current mayor of Cozad, and is also glad to be back. "I lived in some very large communities and large cities, and you miss that feeling of knowing your neighbors, and understanding who they are, and where they came from," Kloepping said. "I think when you come back here, it's that nice feeling of coming back to what you know, and what's comfortable for you."

Younger families appear to be making the move back to Cozad because of all that the town has to offer. Lyle Davis is the CEO of Cozad Community Health Systems, and has two children who've returned to work in Cozad as a dentist and an attorney. He says the medical care in town is a big draw for families. "We like to say we are focused on our community. The health of our community. That is our main goal," Davis said. "We want to know what they want. That's why we have MD's, nurse practitioners, and specialists come in that our young people want to see."

Cozad also has a popular park system, good school system, and a new wellness center. With all of this, uncertain times brought on by the closing of the Tenneco automotive plant 10 years ago, is well in the past. "People still ask me, oh, that must be horrible that happened a couple of years ago," Kloepping said. "I remind them it's been 10 years ago now, and we are doing fine. And while that is a loss and we are sad to see that company leave, one employer doesn't define a town, it's really defined by the people living here."

People like Susan Kuhlman are excited to be living in Cozad and running the 242 House. "In fact my 23-year-old daughter moved here from Minneapolis to partake in this," Kuhlman said. "Now she is a fourth generation, so it's really exciting to see a small town have confidence that there's people that want to be here."

It's a small town, where families and young people are planting roots.