Jennifer Tissot of Saranac Lake (in orange) was the first person to buy merchandise at the Community Store, a community-owned department store that opened its doors in Saranac Lake Saturday, Oct. 29, nine years after Ames went out of business. This village has been without a department store since that time.
The Community Store opened its doors at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, ending a nine-year department store drought in this small Adirondack village.
One of the first questions people asked as they walked through the door at 97 Main St. was, “Where’s the underwear?” After the Ames department store closed in 2002, residents constantly complained they couldn’t even buy a pair of underwear in Saranac Lake. It soon became a running joke, even when the Community Store – a community owned department store – was founded in 2007, a year after Wal-Mart abandoned plans to build a supercenter here on Lake Flower Avenue.
Milt Adams, of Lake Clear, was the first to find the underwear after the store opened but didn’t buy any of the briefs he held up for a quick photograph while his wife, Christine, was shopping.
“I’m just browsing,” he said.
Community Store board members joined three store employees, including General Manager Craig Waters, during the opening hour, helping customers find items and checking them out. Minutes after the store opened, Waters had the music system working and the former Italian restaurant-turned department store was filled with the soothing disco beat of “More Than a Woman,” by the Bee Gees.
As more than a dozen people browsed through the clothing racks – site of the bar in the former Corvo restaurant – others walked through the art supply and local book departments in the former dining room section. Soon there was a long line at the checkout counter.
Jennifer Tissot, of Saranac Lake, was the first to buy items at the Community Store and proudly held up a free Community Store ice scraper after getting her change.
“I bought a hat and tights, but I’m planning on doing more shopping,” she said. “I also own shares, so I’m very excited to be shopping here as a part owner.”
At 10 a.m. the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the 3,000-square-foot store, which will celebrate a grand opening in November.
The Community Store in Saranac Lake was based on another community-owned department store, The Merc in Powell, Wyo. Saranac Lake’s operation is the first community-owned department store in New York state, a distinction that warranted the attention of a New York Times photographer, who covered the Oct. 29 opening.
“Locally owned by citizens in contrast to the distant, corporate shareholders of large national retailers, community stores are designed by residents to meet specific local shopping needs at fair prices and to keep local dollars circulating locally, creating a benefit for the store, the shopper and the local economy,” states the Community Store website.
The Community Store reached its fundraising goal, a minimum of $500,000, on March 12, 2011, having sold 5,032 shares of stock. The offering will end on Dec. 12, 2011 or until the store has sold 6,000 shares, whichever comes first.
The Community Store is open daily. For more information, call (518) 637-5445 or visit online at www.community-store.org.