Kara Hagen and Mike Sommer felt that the town of Hot Springs was missing a cozy place for people to meet up and hang out in the afternoon and evenings. This summer, Hot Springs welcomed their new business to the main drag: Southern Hills Mercantile & Taproom, nicknamed “The Merc.” Owners Hagen and Sommer purchased the building back in October of last year and dove into a full renovation before opening The Merc in July of 2022.
The renovation gave the entire space a facelift with classic brick and plaster walls, an art deco entrance, modern murals, local artwork, and furniture pieces from all over the state. Hagen picked up ritzy furniture and fixtures at places like Chef Louie’s Steak House & Lounge in Mitchell (which is no longer open), local farmers’ markets, and BES Lighting in Rapid City.
Hagen says that back in the day, the building marked the spot where uptown and downtown Hot Springs collided. With this location, it’s within walking distance of most of the town.
“That’s why we did the old timey mural on the outside,” said Hagen. “This is the meeting place.”
Open for the hours of 2 – 8 p.m., The Merc is a place to spend time and socialize after breakfast and lunch places in the area have closed.
Here, browse through the selection of South Dakota-made products and food, and order from the menu.
“Some people love the taproom atmosphere but don’t want to drink,” said Hagen. “We’ve got something for everybody.”
In the taproom, they serve beer, wine, jun tea, kombucha, water kefir, coffee, and more. The space is also used to brew products for the owners’ second shared business, Scobi Kombucha.
“COFFEE SHOPS CLOSE AT 2P.M. AROUND HERE, SO we thought 2 – 8 P.M. WERE THE BEST HOURS. WE’RE HAPPY TO BRING THAT TAPROOM ENVIRONMENT HERE”
– KARA HAGEN
Grab growlers of varying sizes to take home tap beer or Scobi kombucha.
At any given time, there will be at least the three signature Scobi flavors along with a seasonal option.
“There are beneficial things in it. It’s good for gut health with a low sugar and carb content,” said brewmaster Sommer. “It’s another option instead of grabbing your favorite soda.”
The Forager Blend is made with cranberry, aronia berry, lion’s mane, and sage. Lovender is made with lavender, chamomile, and calendula petals. The third mainstay, Golden Bliss, is made with ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and tumeric. Seasonal kombucha flavors vary and include things like Pina Fiesta and Fall Chai.
“The New Moon is meant for calmness and peace of mind and to help with more gut health. In this one, there’s charcoal, backberries, aronia berries, skullcap, lemon for a citrus kick in it, and peppercorns,” said Sommer. “That one will have CBD.”
“We have Cox’s Farm, Sturgis Jerky, Gaylen’s Gourmet Popcorn, Dimock Cheese, Moccasin Springs towels and robes, Chubby Chipmunk chocolates, Dakota Seafood, Black Hills microgreens, and Evergreen Ranch“
– Kara Hagen
Every two weeks, they change up the small plates on the menu, and weekly, the entrées vary.
The small plates could be anything from Shrimp Cocktail served in a martini glass to Bison Sliders.
In addition to food, there’s a cooler for grab-and-go food items, a display case with Dakota Seafood, and an entire section where guests can pick up South Dakota-made products like shirts, popcorn, and more.
Some of these brands include Oh Geez! Design, Moccasin Springs Natural Mineral Spa, Evergreen Ranch, Dimock Cheese, and more.