The interim board of directors of the Community Store in Saranac Lake announced this week that it has reached its capital investment goal and will open sometime this summer.
Board members made the announcement Wednesday morning at the former Corvo's restaurant, the future site of the shareholder-owned department store.
The effort to open a community-owned department store in Saranac Lake launched in the summer of 2007, four years after the closure of the Ames department store.
At the time, the all-volunteer board of directors had high hopes of reaching its $500,000 capital goal quickly.
What they didn't anticipate was a severe economic downturn that ravaged markets and had business owners closing their doors rather than staging grand openings.
But the Community Store's interim president, Melinda Little, says that even though it took longer than expected, investors finally came through.
According to Little, the funds raised over the last four years will now be released from escrow, allowing the company to enter into financial commitments.
"This is going to let us sign a lease," she said. "And we are in negotiations right now with Greg Moore, who owns this building, the old Corvo's restaurant. We expect that to come to a conclusion very shortly."
Additionally, the investments can be used to begin hiring key positions for the store, such as manager and assistant manager.
The board's interim vice president, Gail Brill, says reaching the $500,000 mark is a huge relief.
"I feel good," she said. "It's been a long four years, but we were always secure in the fact that the community would rally in support of the store - and they have."
With the initial fundraising phase complete, the company is permitted to continue collecting shares, up to $600,000, until June.
Alan Brown is interim treasure for the Community Store. He says some 600 investors donated an average of $800 each - the minimum share price was $100. The largest single investment of $20,000 came from a Saranac Lake family, although the board said it could not identify specific donors.
The next step is to hire staff and convert the former restaurant, located on Main Street in the heart of Saranac Lake, into a department store. With about 5,000 square feet of available space, Gail
Brill anticipates the business will feature a wide array of products.
"Products that are affordable for every person in Saranac Lake and obviously high quality," she said. "I mean that's our goal - to have a range of things."
Saranac Lake's store is the first of its kind in New York. Brill believes it may be the first of its kind in the entire northeast and organizers are already hearing from other rural communities looking to launch similar outfits.
"We heard from Belfast, Maine at one point, although I haven't been in touch with them to find out how that effort is going," she said. "There have been contacts made from other parts of the country about what we're doing. People check our website all the time to find out how we're doing and what we're doing to inspire investment."
Sylvie Nelson is executive director of the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. She says the Community Store will be good for Saranac Lake.
"I think it's going to be complimentary," she said. "I think that's what the goal has been from the first place - to bring some items that aren't currently available. They'll probably sell some things that overlap with other businesses, but that's good for competition."
Nelson says adding a new business to the local economy sends a strong message to other potential investors.
"For this to be happening, it sends a message that something positive is going on - not just in the Tri-Lakes are, but in the state as well," she said.
Melinda Little says the store will employee up to eight part and full-time workers from the Tri-Lakes area and will pay full taxes to the village of Saranac Lake.
A lot has to happen before the Community Store will be open for business, but a tentative grand opening is set for sometime in early July.