Out of balance?
There's no doubt that I adore this
town. However I must admit that
I've noticed some changes since
I was here for the holidays. Sadly
our downtown is struggling and
many store fronts are vacant. My
concern is that we may be hitting
a tipping point. The question is
when does downtown shift from
destination to drive by? Without
enough options, could it all just
disappear? Would anybody care?
Or has Walmart finally won...
Out of sync?
Like most rural communities, things
change at a slower pace here. After
the downturn of the economy, it took
longer to impact the locals. We've no
lack of "rich folks" as they continue
to trickle in at a steady pace. Sadly
few spend it locally. Instead most
ship what they need in from out of
town. While Frank and I have tried
to focus our cash flow within town,
there are things we simply couldn't
buy here even if we wanted to. Like
many others, the internet tempts us.
Out of gas?
It was a dismal winter and many
shops went days without a single
transaction. Discouraged, some
gave up and closed forever. The
result? A surge of speculation that
our town is dead. The sad fact is
that few offered what the locals
wanted and even fewer tried to
chase the business. Some seem
to do well and must know where
money is to be had. All you have
to do is be ready, willing, and
OPEN. And... stop complaining.
Out of sight?
Old timers lament days past
when Lewistown had many
department stores, specialty
shops, restaurants, banks, and
more. Like most of America,
chains left downtown for the
highway edge. For a town
like ours, they clustered in
Billings or Great Falls, both
two hour drives away. The
big boys refuse to play in
our sand box. Is that bad or
is opportunity knocking?
Out of mind?
Somebody has to be willing to
open the door. There's no doubt
that locals are spending money
somewhere else. The question is
how do you keep that cash local?
Simply put, differentiation. The
few local retailers who beat out
the big boxes offer up things they
can't or won't carry. It seems so
simple yet only the brave seem
willing to even try. Hence locals
will drive hours to Costco or surf
the web to purchase special gifts.
Out of time?
My mind has been racing for months.
Having worked retail for years, could
I possibly solve the puzzle? I'm not a
merchant yet I know many who are
ready to help. I'm not a store manager
yet I know that if you build it they will
come. I'm not a genius yet I know that
if you're different, you may survive or
possibly thrive. I am passionate about
this tiny town. Call me a missionary or
fool, somebody's got to serve up some
retail religion. I just may be that man
but first, we've got to finish our house!
THREE YEARS OF PROGRESS
Recently I noticed quite a bit of activity on this blog
first posted on May 10th of 2014. In revisiting it I've
found that much of what I talked about has or will be
happening as relates to the heart of our community.
ALL because of the committed work of a variety of
community organizations and individuals. BRAVO!
A niche retailer named "Sew Pieceful" opened just
about a year ago and has been doing quite well since.
One of our candidates for City Commission is about to
open a restaurant in the former "Megahertz" building.
A 24/7 fitness center now thrives in a revamped retail
space with a paying membership in the thousands.
Meanwhile development of a brewery is in process in
the former feed building across from the Yogo Inn.
The Powers building - also known as "Reeds" has new
owners who are in the process of restoration. These
same folks were responsible for the transformation of
the Judith Theater a few years ago. KUDOS!
The new owners of the former TV/Appliance center
building are working on a variety of innovative ideas
for filling up their space. Meanwhile the apartments
above are fully rented and are being updated.
All while citizens are working hard on funding a new
community park adjacent to Big Spring Creek
The list goes on and on and it's ALL GOOD NEWS!