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Saranac Lake Community Comes Together To Create Local Department Store

If you visit upstate New York and venture into the picturesque town of Saranac Lake, population 5,000, you will find restaurants, an Army Navy store, art galleries and now the Saranac Lake Community Store where underwear, socks and spools of thread have been among the top sellers since the store opened in October.

The store is unusual — it is not a chain, and it was the brainchild of residents who were frustrated with scant shopping options after an Ames department store went out of business in 2002. Residents started raising capital for the department store, also in the hopes of heading off a debate over whether Wal-Mart should be allowed to come to town, after the retail giant expressed interest.

As the New York Times reports:

Residents of Saranac Lake… decided to raise capital to open their own department store. Shares in the store, priced at $100 each, were marketed to local residents as a way to “take control of our future and help our community,” said Melinda Little, a Saranac Lake resident who has been involved in the effort from the start. “The idea was, this is an investment in the community as well as the store.”

And this spring, organizers reached their $500,000 goal. Construction was started and finished, and on October 29 Saranac Lake Community Store opened for the first time.

Since then, the store has been doing brisk business and has become an anchor for the downtown economy. And residents no longer have to drive 50 miles to Plattsburgh to buy basic items like underwear or sheets.

Guest:

  • Melinda Little, president of the store’s volunteer board of directors

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