by marlys good
CPA Bruce Bergstrom has put away his ledgers and is “closing the books” on his accounting practice which has been a mainstay on Greybull Avenue for the past 39 years.
His decision to retire has nothing to do with the fact that he will turn 73 in June. Simply put, Bruce told his clients, “Barb and I want to move on to the next chapter in our lives.”
For Barb, who worked “lock-step” with Bruce in the family business, retirement means travel. For Bruce, well, he’s giving himself six months to decide which direction his retirement will lead. “The first thing I’m going to do is clean the garage,” he laughed. “I don’t have a bucket list.”
Visitors or clients to the accounting office are aware of the antiques, collectibles and memorabilia that cover nearly every surface of the walls. What will happen to all of that? Bruce just laughs. “Well, Barb said it’s not going home!”
With new owner and GHS native and graduate Jim Reilly of Cody coming to the office just one day a week, Bruce said his home-away-from home for the past 39 years will probably “be my man-cave on days Jim isn’t here,” so his irreplaceable treasurers can remain where they are until Bergstrom figures out what to do with them.
Bergstrom received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Colorado State University. With the exception of a year spent working for the U.S. Forest Service in Cody and two years spent in the military as a U.S. Army statistician, Bergstrom has always been in the accounting field.
He and Barb came to Greybull in 1973 when he purchased the accounting practice of the late Bill Shelledy after Shelledy accepted the full-time position as president of Big Horn Federal Savings Bank.
Bergstrom’s original practice was housed in two upstairs apartments in the Greybull Hotel then owned by Joe Carey. Six months later the offices relocated downstairs to the former Vital Air office.
Much in common
Jim Reilly, who purchased the Bergstrom business, is no stranger to Greybull. The son of the late Hugh and Vi Reilly, Jim graduated from Greybull High School in 1973; he is married to Greybull native and 1974 GHS grad Linda Haller. They have four children, Patrick, a dentist in the military; Melissa, a CPA; son Sean, who recently graduated from BYU with a major in Spanish; and daughter Lauren, an accountant.
It’s ironic that Reilly’s two daughters became accountants. Bergstrom’s two sons, Bret and Beau, moved in a completely different direction from their dad. Beau, a geologist, lives in Colorado and works for InterTech E&E, a CMBA company, as a GIS specialist; Bret, who lives in Laramie, works for the State Engineer’s Office in Cheyenne as a natural resource analyst. The Bergstroms’ youngest child, daughter Brooke, lives in Worland
Reilly said he met Bergstrom when he first moved to Greybull, and the friendship, both personal and professional, continued when Reilly moved to Cody and established his business. Neither of the two men made his career choice early on. Bergstrom admitted he hadn’t even taken a bookkeeping class in high school, and it wasn’t until he got a D in a thermal dynamics (or something similar) in college that he decided he’d better take another look at doing something else, he admitted with a grin.
Reilly took bookkeeping in high school, “but it was my least favorite class,” he laughed. He wavered and waffled about career choices his first couple of years at the University of Wyoming. Then he talked to his accountant brother-in-law, transferred to Brigham Young University, changed his major to accounting and the rest is history. He received his degree in 1983, the family moved to Cody and Reilly established James Reilly CPA, PC. Linda steps in and helps out during tax season.
Bergstrom and Reilly would talk on and off, the way professionals will, asking each other “what would you do” in situations that were a little unusual. The rapport was always there.
Also on the table was whether Reilly would be interested in buying his business if Bergstrom decided to retire.
By that time, Reilly had a daughter majoring in accounting, who wanted to move back to Cody. “I kept hanging on for that. I didn’t want to hire her right out of college. I wanted her to get some experience, bring something, a fresh outlook, to the business,” Reilly said. Melissa cooperated and worked in Alaska for two years before joining the family business.
Bergstrom said his decision to retire “had been coming for a long time. I always knew I would know when it was enough,” he admitted, adding that owning your own business is not an eight-hour-a-day, five-day-a-week job. It’s more like 24/7 and family vacations are rare. But it’s difficult to leave a job you really like.
Bergstrom said he made his decision in October, “and called Jim and told him ‘I’m outa here!’”
Bergstrom had enjoyed the clients whom he has come to count as friends he’s made over the years. “What I will miss most are the mental gymnastics we do. Using your mind that much keeps you young,” he said with a smile.
With Melissa entrenched in the practice, Reilly was ready to step up to the new challenge. He already serves many clients living in Greybull, which includes being the continuing auditor for Big Horn County for the past 25 years. He will see clients one day a week in Greybull beginning in February, and hopes advanced communications/technology will allow him to work with local clients through his office in Cody.
Reilly said he’s confident that buying the practice was a good decision, one that was fully supported by his wife. “She trusts my judgment,” he said.
The purchase “has given me a shot in the arm, a chance to meet new people, new clients, and there are no ‘skeletons;’ Bruce is a quality man and a quality CPA,” Reilly said.
Bergstrom admitted that it is hard to leave his long-time business and the clients who have become more like family over the years. “At the risk of sounding maudlin, Barb and I have thought of you more as friends than clients and we will miss each and every one of you,” Bergsrom told his clients in a letter announcing his retirement.