Community Store re-defining image of small town America


At a time when the holiday shopping season focuses squarely on big-box stores and online retailers, along comes the Community Store in Saranac Lake to capture our hearts and imaginations.

The Ames department store in Saranac Lake closed in 2002, and no matter how hard small shop owners tried to collectively serve the “general store” needs of this community, more and more people began relying on the big-box destinations outside the Adirondack Park. When Walmart tried to build a supercenter here, village officials blocked the plan, forcing locals to make trips of 50 miles or more (one-way) to buy the most basic household items, such as underwear. It also gave the community a chance to create a department store for the masses, playing by home rule rather than corporate greed.

We’re not naïve. We know Saranac Lakers will still buy goods online and take shopping trips to the closest Walmart or Target. But this Community Store has given Saranac Lake a booster shot of confidence. It has made Saranac Lake a shopping destination again. It has bought Saranac Lake 15 more minutes of fame.

When the New York Times covered the Oct. 29 opening of the Community Store, its Business Section story was picked up by media outlets across the U.S. It captured the attention of The Early Show on CBS. It seems Saranac Lake is not only the coldest spot on the Weather Channel’s map of America; it is also one of the hottest retail destinations in the nation.

“People want closer relationships with each other and with the companies with which they do business. They want a conversation. They want to be part of it all,” wrote columnist David L. Rawle on Nov. 15 for the Charleston Regional Business Journal. “That’s why the Saranac Lake Community Store came into being and will no doubt be successful.”

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