Friday, June 23, 2006

Stories on Community Store Public Forum - Saranac Lake

Report from WNBZ radio here.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise story here.

Plattsburgh Press Republican story here.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Very Successful Public Forum Tonight!

Tonight was the night of the Public Forum about a community department store held at the Harrietstown Town Hall. There was quite a large audience of enthusiastic attendees. When asked how many people would buy shares in such a store (at $500 each) at least 100 people raised their hands.

Left to right: Steve Alves, Board Member, Greenfield, MA Mercantile; Nancy Neff, Stafford Springs, CT Community Store; Sharon Earhart, Chamber Director, Powell, Wyoming

Attentive Saranac Lake residents. Maybe 200-250 attendees, maybe more.

Steve Alves explains the legal process needed to sell shares in a community store venture.
I just realized that Steve Alves is the guy that made the movie 'Talking to the Wall'. Read more here. I also posted about this movie on 5/31 here.

Powell, Wyoming 'Merc' - Some Info

The Merc opened in July 2002. The store sells affordably priced clothing and shoes for the whole family. With a Wal-Mart Supercenter just 20 miles away in Cody, some Powell residents predicted that The Merc, like most small town stores focused on basic needs, would fail.But so far the store has been remarkably successful. It's met vital local needs, boosted sales at other downtown businesses, and even turned a profit. During its first year, The Merc took in $500,000 in revenue, outpacing projections, and generated a profit of $36,000. The earnings were reinvested and used to expand the store from 7,500 to 10,000 square feet. Founders cite several factors in The Merc's success, including top-notch customer service and a board made up of experienced local businesspeople. With no debt to service or stockholders demanding high rates of return, prices can be kept relatively low. "We're probably not quite as low as Wal-Mart," said store manager Paul Ramos, "but we're close and we usually do better than the mall up in Billings." Another significant factor in The Merc's success, according to board member Ken Witzeling, is the community's sense of ownership. "When you walk down the street and talk to people about the store," he said, "they all refer to it as 'our store.' Not 'the store,' or 'that store.' It's 'our store.'

Read more here.

Also, an article in the Casper Star Tribune here.
"Everyone wants to know what we're doing and how we're doing it."

The answer to the first part of the question is "pretty good." It has been three years since 800 community investors plunked down one or more $500 shares to put The Merc in business. Last year, the community-owned business cleared $560,000 in gross sales and shareholders should see "sizeable" dividends in the next few years, said Ken Witzeling, a retired pharmacist who sits in the president's chair on The Merc's Board of Directors.
"We've made money since day one," Witzeling said.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

ADE Editorial - At Least Consider a Community Department Store


The 'guts' of the editorial appear below.
Nevertheless, we’ve heard many people — angry that the village board halted the rezoning process for the would-be Wal-Mart site — say they would boycott such a community store. They say it is being proposed by the same people who opposed Wal-Mart. There’s some truth to that. Although support for the store is more broad-based than such critics realize, the Save Saranac Lake Coalition, which vehemently opposes Wal-Mart, is involved in promoting the idea as a smaller alternative to the 121,000-square-foot Supercenter Wal-Mart wants to build.

We, however, are not categorically opposed to Wal-Mart. The way we see it is this: Anyone who really wants a new department store in Saranac Lake, like we do, should be willing to seriously consider the pros and cons of any party that steps up to the plate with a proposal to establish one — from Wal-Mart to a grassroots group.

The second paragraph is the key. Many opponents of Wal-Mart were/are willing to compromise if the store was located downtown and was smaller. CARD is not only unwilling to discuss compromises on Wal-Mart size and location, they are unwilling to discuss or listen to ANY viable alternative on retail development.

This is the Committee for Advancement of Retail Development? How does not listening to other ideas on retail development advancing retail development? They need to face facts. The are the Committee for Advancement of a 121,000 sq ft Wal-Mart Located on Lake Flower Avenue....let's see...that would be CA121kWMLLFA. Yeah that is a mouthful.

Todays Amusing Letter to the ADE Editor


"Wal-Mart already said in a statement that the village board vote will block a store from being built there, and Wal-Mart will not wait two years for a decision".

If Wal-Mart will not wait two years for a decision, that is their business decision. If they think an SL store will be profitable, they will two years, five years or ten years. It's a business decision.
"Stanley Chevrolet is now sitting empty, paying no salaries; it looks pretty bad when driving past it".

Yes, Stanley Chevrolet is sitting empty. It's a pretty big lot wouldn't you say? At least as big as the plaza across the street? Big enough for a 68,000 sq ft Wal-Mart probably. Business decision.
"This idea of a community department store is not the answer, it’s one of the worst solutions to the problem I’ve ever heard of".

It's a solution? Why? Are there any reasons other than that you want a 121,000 sq ft Wal-Mart instead?

No Quality of Life in SL!

This morning on TOT the community was notified, by a regular caller, that there is no quality of life in Saranac Lake, unlike in the past. Why is this? High crime rate? Poor educational system? Lack of clean air and water? No, it's none of those things.

It's because we don't have a Wal-Mart!

Almost everyone in the area agrees that Saranac Lake needs a large department store to replace the old Ames store. But to claim that SL lacks quality of life because we don't have a Wal-Mart is not only wrong, ignorant, illogical, and not well thought's stupid.

This is what it's come down to. The problem is no longer that we lack a large department store, the problem is that we lack a 121,000 sq ft Wal-Mart box in which to buy cheap junk.

Ever wonder why Ames went bankrupt? Could it possibly be because Wal-Mart put them out of business? Hundreds of grocery stores across the USA have gone out of business. Why? Wal-Mart. Tens of thousands of good, well paying manufacturing jobs have been moved overseas. Why, because US manufacturers are pressured to do so by Wal-Mart. But no need to worry. These good paying jobs with benefits are being replaced by jobs at Wal-Mart just so you and I can buy more and more unnecessary cheap crap.

Robert Reich, ex-Secretary of Labor says, consumers' addiction to low prices is accelerating a shift toward a two-tiered U.S. economy, with a shrinking middle class and a growing pool of low-wage workers. "Wal-Mart's prices may be lower," he said, "but that's small consolation to a lot of people who end up with less money to spend."

I am finally reading "The Wal-Mart Effect" by Charles Fishman. I'm very surprised more pro-Wal-Mart people haven't read the book because Fishman actually seems to admire what Wal-Mart has accomplished. The more worrisome aspects are the spreading effects of what and how Wal-Mart does business. Even the US Bureau of Standards cannot get a handle on the effects of Wal-Mart on our economy.

Fishman wanted to interview companies that supply Wal-Mart. He had lots of trouble finding one that would talk about their so called 'partnership' with Wal-Mart. He finally found a supplier that agreed to be interviewed. Next day the supplier said they changed their mind. They had called Wal-Mart to make sure it was okay. It wasn't. They couldn't afford to alienate Wal-Mart.

An economist wanted to do a study on the effects of Wal-Mart on surrounding businesses. They called Wal-Mart to get a list of stores and the dates on which they opened for business. Wal-Mart refused to give out the information.

(Rant to be con't)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


What: Public forum about a Community Department Store

When: Thursday, June 22nd, 7 PM

Where: Harrietstown Town Hall, Saranac Lake, NY

Everyone is welcomed.

Organization Clarifies Name

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sour Grapes at its Best

Letter in Saturdays Adirondack Daily Enterprise by Jeffrey K. Branch (loser of the race for mayor of SL 838-579)sounds like sour grapes at its finest. Mr. Branch needs to learn how a representative government works and what 'open government' means.

1. democracy took a back seat to back-room politics. Where is the evidence that any back-room politics took place? That is a serious unsubstantiated charge.

2. democracy took a back seat to a vocal minority. What vocal minority? 838-579?

3. A motion to send the issue of rezoning the sand pit to public hearing was defeated. So by your definition, every single motion of importance needs to have a public hearing before it can be voted on by elected representatives?

4. ...a process which is the basis for the republic to which they pledge their allegiance prior to every meeting.... My, hopefully they won't be sent to Gitmo.

5. The residents of the village have been denied their constitutionally guaranteed rights to be heard. CARD, SAGA, Voters for Change, Coalition to Save Saranac Lake, countless letters to the editor, months of daily calls to talk of the town, radio interviews, town meetings, petitions, campaigns etc and no one was heard? 838-579

6. It is time you (Mayor Michael) start listening to the residents of this village and time you start acting in their interest. 838-579