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South Dakota Town Creates Community-Owned Variety Store

| Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on May 20, 2009 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

When small town in Clark lost its last variety store, they had a choice: drive 40 minutes to a nearby town for basic supplies or pull together and jointly create a new, community-owned store.  They pulled together.

[M]ore than 100 people in Clark have purchased $500 shares to finance the opening of the Clark Hometown Variety Store. The store will take the place of the Duckwall store, which was one of 20 underperforming stores parent company Duckwall-Alco Stores of Kansas closed in 2005.

“We had no place in town to buy a pair of shoelaces or buy socks or underwear or any of those things,” says Greg Furness, a shareholder who runs the local funeral home. Residents, he says, had to make a 40-minute drive — sometimes in treacherous winter conditions — to Watertown every time they needed supplies.

Our own Stacy Mitchell is quoted in the story, noting that this is not a one-off event.  Other communities have taken similar actions.  Download this pdf to learn how you can create a community-owned store.

Putting community before profits has created a winning recipe.

“It was overwhelming,” says Gruenwald, 46. The store was packed, and there was a constant line at the checkout, he says. In February, the store held its full grand opening.

Two co-managers order and help stock items for the 6,500-square-foot sales floor, Gruenwald says. Among the most popular items: fabric and sewing items; crafts; and athletic apparel from Clark High and nearby Willow Lake High, he says.

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About Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and directs its Community-Scaled Economy Initiative, which produces research and analysis, and partners with a range of allies to design and implement policies that curb economic consolidation and strengthen community-rooted enterprise.  She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and also produces a popular monthly newsletter, the Hometown Advantage Bulletin.  Connect with her on twitter and catch her TEDx Talk: Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to a Better Economy. More

Contact Stacy   |   View all articles by Stacy Mitchell