I often brag about the fact that we live about
two hours from the nearest Walmart. As any
former urbanite I abhor big box chains and
their negative impact on small town America.
Most of my readers know that I am fervently
dedicated to shopping locally if and whenever
possible. Be that a local business or national
chain. The exception being if you can't get
what you need in town. All of which seems
quite noble in theory. Yet in practice can be
more than challenging. Most crave immediate
gratification. Meaning if and when we need
something we want to be able to buy it now!
That's where rural life can be more than a bit
frustrating. Therefore better safe than sorry
takes on new meaning if one lives in central
Montana. One can't assume that it's easy to
replenish basics or indulge in luxuries here in
the hither land. Instead we must plan ahead
and save for a rainy day. Or just do without.
Proof that limited options not only limit one's
ability to check off their list but require the
deft leverage of one's organizational skills.
Meaning that like it or not, more often than
not locals assume they have no choice but
to spend their money out of town or on-line.
Out of stock
Even when they'd rather not, Fergus County
residents claim they're forced to shop far or
wide by circumstances beyond their control.
This week the corporate owner of our one
"big box" store (well, actually a wee box)
announced they were closing all of its stores.
News that for most Americans didn't mean
a thing. However for Montanans, losing their
local Shopko is bad news at best. Especially
when the chances of filling said gap may take
years. Hence this loss of yet another option
further limits our ability to shop locally. And
the only folks celebrating work for Amazon.
To put our crisis in context, consider those who
live in Roundup (1,857.) Post closure of their
Shopko pharmacy they now lack a local source
for fulfilling their prescriptions. Their choice
being to plan ahead and order on-line. Or drive
fifty miles to Billings. Hopefully their medical
center will figure out how to fill said gap. But
in the meantime, the parents of any sick baby
or those who can't remember to take, let alone
refill their pills will be all the more frantic when
a crisis hits. Proof that you don't know what you
have until... you literally lose it. And realize that
sooner or later you may never get it back.
Here in Lewistown we're not totally out of luck.
However Frank and I have been making a list
of things we'll no longer be able to procure in
town. Dumb basics like a mattress cover, bed
pillows, set of sheets, or towels. Or a new TV,
DVD player, or printer for your computer. Let
alone a CD or DVD for entertainment. Forget
about finding those basic chinos your employer
requires you wear. Or a pair of sneakers. The
good news is this deficit offers opportunities
for local business to cash in. The question is
will locals give them a chance? Or log on or
drive off to shop anywhere but close to home.
The impact of losing our Shopko store is much
greater than an inability to comparison shop for
Depends. Thirty Fergus County residents were
paid to work there. Our local newspaper billed
them to insert weekly ads. Local utilities kept
their lights on. All that and more will soon be
gone. Leaving us literally holding an empty bag.
However YOU can make a difference. Rather
than add more profit to Mr. Bezo's coffers you
can change Lewistown for the better. Before
you go elsewhere, ask any local retailer to fill
our community's gap. It may take longer but
isn't reinvesting in Lewistown worth the effort?