What a World
America’s Tiniest Town Is Sold And Renamed PhinDeli Town Buford, Wyoming
Buford, Wyoming was a sleepy little town until a Vietnamese entrepreneur with a big plan bought it. His mission for the rebranded hamlet: coffee. Nina Strochlic reports.
In September, the one-man hamlet of Buford, Wyoming announced a redesign: the nation’s smallest town had been rebranded as “PhinDeli Town Buford.” It was a strange transition for the remote town famous for its “POP: 1” sign, and its single resident with his own zip code (80252). In the spring of 2012, Don Sammons, the sole resident and proprietor of Buford, decided it was time to sell the 147-year-old town. It went up for auction on the website Williams & Williams and was snapped up by an anonymous Vietnamese bidder for $900,000. “It’s an American dream!” he wrote in a statement explaining his purchase.
Sammons purchased the town of Buford in 1980 and moved there with his wife and son. He labeled himself owner and mayor, while successfully marketing Buford as “the nation’s smallest town” to attract travelers passing through on their way to Yellowstone National Park. After his wife’s death and son’s departure, Sammons decided to auction off the town. “I brought Buford into the twenty-first century,” he told the New Yorker. “I took it as far as I could.”
Enter Pham Dinh Nguyen. The 38-year-old entrepreneur acquired the offering—10 acres and five buildings, including a convenience store gas station called the Buford Trading Post and a moduler home—which had attracted competing bidders from 46 countries. (Technically, the town can't be sold because it's considered an unincorporated community by the state, but Nguyen bought the entirety of its amenities.)
After the town’s sale in April 2012, Buford sat quiet for a year until early this September when Nguyen revealed that he was the winner and unveiled the town's new name. A resident of Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyen announced plans to start selling PhinDeli-brand coffee from the Buford Trading Post, with the hope of making it into the national, and ultimately international, market.
“He said, ‘Yes, I can move to L.A. and start a coffee shop just like everybody else does,’” Nguyen’s spokeswoman told press when the Buford Trading Post reopened. “Or I can take a completely different approach and leverage word-of-mouth marketing and sampling to drive the retail brand.”
The company already has three offices: one in Vietnam, one in New York City, and one in PhinDeli Town Buford. On the town’s website, a proud mission statement reads: “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, the pursuit of Happiness and enjoyment of Coffee.” Sammons, who’s now one of 70,000 residents of Loveland, Colorado, has agreed to remotely manage the town’s sole business, now offering Vietnamese coffee.
The merger makes for an unusual union in more than just geography for Sammons, who fought in the Vietnam War. “To know now that 45 years later we’re actually working together and calling each other friends, I just think that’s amazing,” he told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Though neither man lives in PhinDeli Town Buford, an on-site caretaker ensures the sign boasting “POP: 1” remains accurate.