The employees at the Shopko in Bowman learned Wednesday, Feb. 6, that the store was closing. According to Scott Sola, store manager, the store is expected to close sometime in May.
By Chris Slone
Sola said he informed the employees once he learned the news and a sense of shock was the main reaction.
According to the Bowman County Economic Development Corporation Director Teran Doerr, the Bowman County Economic Development Corporation decided to draft a letter Monday, Feb. 11, with support from the city and county commissioners, in an effort to keep Shopko open. There are also online petitions available for residents to sign, showing their support for their local store.
“We’re going to support the petitions that are out there,” Doerr said. “We discussed it this morning and we feel coming from a community voice will carry more weight.”
Shopko filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Wednesday, Jan. 16. Shortly after, the Wisconsin-based company announced approximately 100 store closures across the midwest. However, in early February, Shopko announced additional closures, which now consume more than 250 stores — including the Bowman location.
The Shopko in Stanley, North Dakota was scheduled to be closed. However, the CEO of Shopko Russ Steinhorst, said the company was reconsidering closing that location due to significant feedback from the local community on the value of that Shopko store.
Doerr said the petition in Stanley was successful, but a lower rent was negotiated with the owners to keep the store open. Doerr said it was premature to suggest the same negotiations could work in Bowman.
“As of right now, we have not been able to get in contact with the owners of the building, so I’m not sure that would be a possibility for us,” Doerr said.
Bowman County Mayor Lyn James also said online petitions weren’t the only reason the Stanley store stayed open.
“I will say the petition in Stanley wasn’t the only deciding factor in the store staying open,” James said. “Although we are in support of these petitions and most of us have already gotten on board, it’s a bigger issue than just wanting the store. They’re in bankruptcy court. We’ll do what we can to be supportive because I sure don’t want to see it close.
“Potentially, if it does close, it will affect not only the residents but the other businesses. It would definitely have a ripple effect. I sure don’t want to see that happen.”
The ripple effect is what concerns Bowman resident Josh Lindstrom.
“It’s a sad day because we pull a lot of business from the surrounding areas — Baker (Montana), Buffalo (South Dakota), Hettinger (North Dakota), Rhame (North Dakota) and Marmarth (North Dakota),” Lindstrom said. “That store brings a lot of business in town. Both dentist offices bring a lot of people into town. But, Shopko and the grocery store (Bronson’s) are two of the key factors that keep things going.”
Doerr said she believe a lot of the local retailers could accommodate some of the resident needs, but not all. She also said the development corporation was in the planning stages of what they could do regarding Shopko’s pending closure.
“We will do what we can to provide those services or get those services here in our community,” Doerr said.
Doerr said she would know more in the coming weeks.
“It would be very, very detrimental,” Lindstrom said. “It’s a key reason to keep people in town and once they have a reason to go out of town, that would be my biggest worry — they are going to run out of town to buy some toys for a birthday party or by some kids’ clothes. Well, when they get out of town, all of the sudden they are going to car shop or hit the Menards instead of the local contractor. It just snow balls.”
Doerr said it’s important to remember Bowman isn’t the only community affected by the news.
“We’re not the only community facing this,” Doerr said. “Seventy percent of their stores are closing. I imagine that’s something that all of those communities are talking about. We’re a great option for a lot of businesses to look at. I don’t think all is lost yet. I think there is potential for us to find something that can replace it.”