Everyone has felt the effects of the recession that we’re mired in. Add to that the rising costs of everyday necessities, including gasoline, fuel oil, clothing and food, and we have a crisis that is straining small businesses located in our historic downtowns to their limit (and sometimes, beyond their limit to the point that they’re forced to close their doors forever). What’s more, it isn’t just small businesses feeling the pinch (look at Borders, for one). But take heart! There are ways to find that toaster or those tube socks or that snow shovel you’ve needed for so long without turning to the local big box store. Consider what the townspeople of Saranac Lake, New York, have done to remedy their shopping needs:
Nestled high in the Adirondack Mountains, this town of 5,000 residents turned down the advances of WalMart, opting to establish a community-owned department store instead. The Saranac Lake Community Store was built on shares sold $100 at a time to the same people who will be walking the aisles to find a new sweater or some aspirin, and since its interests lie exclusively in offering services to Saranac Lake, it won’t be sold up the river when an investor makes an attractive offer, or close down when its parent company gets too deep into debt. This business model will help to keep money in the community it supports, which will help to preserve Saranac Lake as a vibrant, viable place for generations to come.
I’d like to send out an emphatic, “Great thinking, folks! Keep up the good work!” to Saranac Lake. Here’s hoping that other small towns around our great nation that have been struggling might look to the model set by the Saranac Lake Community Store as a fresh, new idea that could breathe new life into their downtowns.
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