“Salem gives you that rural town feel with some big town amenities,” said Chris Fields, economic development and member relations specialist at Sioux Metro Growth Alliance.

The town of 1,200 sits 35 minutes from Mitchell and 45 minutes from Sioux Falls, but Fields says it would have been a destination for a family visit when he was growing up.

He explains what makes Salem unique for a rural South Dakota town is that it has so much to offer for its size.

“They have a grocery store, a chiropractor, multiple banks, multiple law offices, multiple restaurants and coffeeshops, a drug store, and so much more,” he said.

“We pride ourselves on meeting each individual community where they are and helping them with their specific needs.”
-Chris Fields

Founded in 1880 and named after Salem, MA, the town boasted a thriving business culture right from the start, due to its proximity to the railroad. In fact, Fields shares the city is home to an epic railroad gang fight in 1883, in which the Salem locals prevailed over the railroad gang from the Chicago Northwestern Railroad.

This spring, 605’s multimedia designer Cailyn Patterson and I took a day trip to see what the town was all about.

First on our itinerary was to check out St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Visible from the drive into town, the Salem landmark was originally built in 1885 when the town was incorporated.

The original church stood from 1886 to 1899, and construction on the current church started in 1898. The building was placed on the National Historic Register in 1985, and will celebrate its 140th anniversary next year.

“If all that history doesn’t impress you, then the building itself—made from stone and dawning immaculate stained glass windows adorning each side of the church, along with three wooden altars and the pulpit, each hand-carved in Bavaria in the early 1900s—surely should,” said Fields.

Salem is the county seat for McCook County and houses the McCook County School District.

After snapping some pics, Cailyn and I headed to The End Zone for a quick bite.

The sports bar boasts a large menu, a full- service bar, and draft and bottled beer. Multiple TVs and themed décor make it the perfect place to kick back and watch a game.

I ordered the Mac—a burger with cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles, and Thousand Island Dressing, while Cailyn snacked on the Mini Corn Dogs.

Refueled, we headed out to another Salem landmark: the newly-renovated baseball fields. Hosting several ball leagues from youth to adult, the fields are even home turf for a South Dakota Amateur Baseball League team—the Salem Cubs.

“Salem has the three summer Ps: parks, playgrounds, and pools.” -Chris Fields

“The baseball complex is just finishing a $130,000 renovation of its backstops, grandstands, and concession stands,” said Fields, noting state-of-the-art lighting will be next on the docket.

Other initiatives Salem and the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance are tackling include housing development, an industrial park, and finding innovative solutions for childcare.

“There is so much potential in Salem for growing and starting businesses, raising a family, attracting visitors, and so much more,” said Fields.

Heading back into town, we stopped at Brickhouse Flowers Greenhouse and Garden Center to admire the fresh flowers before heading across the street to The Brewery.

Opened in April 2022, the bar and restaurant is known as “the home of the Frosty Mug.” Owner and manager Tanya Rother says they are also known for their crowd-favorite pizzas.

Rother is one of six owners who bought the place in 2022, after it had changed hands a few times.

The Brewery has a full bar, wines, beers, and root beer on tap. Menu offerings include appetizers, wraps, salads, burgers, kids’ meals, and (of course) pizzas.

“You can get pretty much any type of pizza you want,” said Rother, sharing her favorite is either the Bacon Cheeseburger, which is made with ketchup and mustard as the sauce, or the Philly Cheese Steak.

The Brewery also offers a cauliflower crust for those with gluten sensitivities.

Rother says her favorite parts of owning the bar are the social aspect and creating a good experience for patrons.

“When you walk in the door, I don’t want you to sit there and wait,” she laughed.

Before leaving Salem, Patterson and I stopped at The Den Drive Up and each bought an Iced Chai for the road.

We took our time driving out of the small town, recalling Fields’s words.

“Salem has a ton to offer for visitors,” he said, “but even more to offer for those looking to live in rural South Dakota.”

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