Shopko closed it’s doors June 18, but local retailers say they’re already ahead of the game, expanding choices and inventory.
Shopko announced in March the closing all of their stores nationwide, to which Douglas’ business owners responded: You don’t need to shop outside of town to get what you need – and, if they don’t have it, then they’ll order it for you.
Enterprise Executive Director Cindy Porter said Douglas is full of great businesses filled with owners who work very hard to make people happy. She encourages local shopping.
Porter said she and City Administrator Jonathan Teichert met with Brett Lasorella, who owns the building Shopko was housed in, to discuss options and knock around ideas of what or who might someday fill that real estate space.
“The owner contacted both Jonathan and me and asked us to go meet in person. It’s a really large building, not just anybody can go into a space like that. They have some ideas, there are conversations going on with different people,” she said. “It’s going to be finding the right combination of a company that has a strategy to expand into new communities.”
There are plenty of other options though, she said, such as identifying gaps in local retail and encouraging owners to fill those gaps and niche markets.
“We want to also encourage people to keep shopping locally rather than going to Casper or online. People say we need ‘this’ here in Douglas, sometimes it might just be one item you can’t (find). Why don’t you go and visit with your favorite shop owner and let them know what it is that you like and want? See if they’ll consider ordering it. At least give the local businesses the options to bring it in for you,” Porter said.
Retailers say they’re ready to special order and stock additional inventory, but if consumers don’t ask for a specific item, how will they know?
Douglas Feed owners Tammy and Corey Larson said they are already stocking items to fill the need. Their store is filled with hunting, fishing, archery, camping, gardening and reloading supplies, as well as feed for just about any creature on this earth – well, almost.
They also stock underwear, something local social media ranters say they can’t get in Douglas.
“Actually, we’d already expanded all of our sporting goods section. We have more pet supplies and we’re the only place to get reloading supplies in town, as far as I know. We even have men’s underwear,” Tammy said.
A huge benefit to shopping locally is that dollars stay inside the community. It’s a symbiotic relationship between community members and the businesses.
And, it’s local shop owners who are donating to Douglas fundraisers and the town’s children.
“We’re the ones they come to. They don’t go to Casper asking for donations. I’d just like to remind people who the local businesses are that support the kids and the community, for whatever activity they happen to be raising (money) for,” she said.
People are going to have to retrain their way of thinking and shopping, she said.
“Habits are hard to break – we’re all creatures of habit and it’s a change in routine. We’ll adjust,” she said.
Tammy said she feels like she’s invested in her customers’ businesses as much as they’re invested in hers.
“When it comes to my farmers and ranchers, if they don’t succeed, I don’t succeed. If they’re not around, I’m not going to be around. I feel like we’re in it together. We rely on each other. We all have to take care of each other in this community,” she said.
Businesses are working together, too, to try to fill in the gaps in retail that Shopko’s departure may have created.
Zip’s Take Two, located off of Richards, is stepping up to the plate, bringing vintage games, old-fashioned candy and a variety of toys into their movie rental establishment.
Owner Garth Ferris wrote on social media, “We know Shopko closing has left a hole in the community as far as being able to get certain kinds of products easily and quickly.
“Before you go to Casper for some of these things or order them online, remember that some of the local businesses are stepping up to try to fill some of these holes.”
Hardware Hank owner Larry Leake said he wants residents to know that if there’s something they need and can’t find, come talk to him.
Not just a full-fledged hardware store in two huge, side-by-side buildings, the business has an extensive clothing line for men, women and children, from work wear to Sunday-best britches and dresses, and all types of footwear.
If consumers want it and it can’t be found, Leake said they will make the extra effort to satisfy the shoppers’ needs.
He admits there’s occasionally stuff folks can’t buy locally.
“It’s just part of life living in a small town. Just remember the local merchants in town and check the availability. We have everything from clothing to appliances to paint and plumbing supplies, everything in between,” he said. “We will do our best to take the best care of the customers.”
Shatto’s Frontier Drug owners Gary and Jan Shatto point out that customer service is a big selling point in small towns, too. Frontier Drug may be best known for their outstanding customer service, as evidenced by residents voting them the National Good Neighbor Pharmacy of the year.
The couple believes that bigger is not always better and treating their customers as part of their family establishes strong relationships and is good business.
“People coming in from other states, especially younger generations, are programmed that bigger is better – like Safeway, Walmart or Shopko rather than a locally, independently-owned store. A lot of the former Shopko customers have told us, they wish they’d have come here first,” Gary said.
Gary and Jan want consumers to know that they take care of their community and their customers.
“We treat our customers the way we want to be treated. We take care of our older patients like we’d take care of our parents or grandparents. We want to help fix your problems. There isn’t a bad question. If we can’t do it, we will help you find out who can,” Gary said.
In the meantime, the building that once housed Shopko – at 35,648 square feet/$7 per foot – is still on the market.
The Douglas-Budget reached out to the owners, but calls were not returned as of press time.