Officials in Morris, elsewhere respond to loss of Shopkos
Editor's note: This is one of four stories related to the closing of Shopko in Morris. For the other stories, click these links: https://www.stevenscountytimes.com/news/4635458-many-pieces-filling-loss...https://www.stevenscountytimes.com/news/4635464-building-owner-wants-good-fit-morris, https://www.stevenscountytimes.com/news/4628864-morris-shopko-close-sunday-june-23
Morris isn't alone in losing its Shopko store. The local store closed Sunday, June 23, as all Shopko stores in the U.S. will close under a bankruptcy process.
It was only seven years ago in September 2012 when the Shopko Hometown in Morris had a grand opening after the parent company bought Pamida stores and converted them to Shopkos.
Morris Mayor Sheldon Giese said the loss is a big one for Morris.
"I'm hugely concerned. It's just another reason for people to leave Morris for shopping or not come to Morris," Giese said. "Morris is a big regional center (especially) for folks to west and south of here."
Giese said he's worried that with Shopko's closure, the shopping patterns of customers will change.
He's not the only public official with that concern in a town that lost a Shopko.
"...we've given people another reason to go out of town," said Bobbi Bohlen the executive director of Grant County Development in Milbank, South Dakota.
Milbank has a population of about 3,400 people.
Nearby, Glenwood has also lost its Shopko. "It means people having to leave town to get what they need," Glenwood Chamber of Commerce director Janelle Negen said of the loss of Shopko.
While officials in three different cities are concerned about how the loss of Shopko will impact local and regional shopping patterns, they are also hopeful that some of the loss can be covered by existing local stores.
Morris Area Chamber of Commerce officials released a statement June 26 that said "Retail businesses have taken note of products that might be missed in Morris...and they are expanding their offerings."
Several stores in Milbank have already adapted to changes over the past few years, chamber director Laurie Folk said.
A local bookstore has expanded to carry gift items and some electronics, for example, Folk said.
The locally-owned and smaller retailers may be best suited to a good future in retail, Bohlen said.
"Our main street is pretty viable here," Bohlen said. Unique shopping opportunities and customer service are what the locally owned and smaller retailer can offer, Bohlen said.
Morris chamber officials also cited the customer service available in locally owned and smaller retailers which can be unbeatable.
As to what fills the empty Shopko buildings, Bohlen and John Stone, the president of the Glenwood Development said it likely won't be conventional retail.
"You kind of wonder where retail is going," Stone said. "It's a tough field. I'd be surprised if (it filled) with retail."
Stone said the Glenwood Shopko apparently already has a locally interested buyer. Stone said a local manufacturer was interested in the building but was told there was already another interested local buyer.
In a March 23 story in the Stevens County Times, Cheryl Kuhn, the director of the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission, said she was "diligently working on many possibilities for the Shopko property."
When contacted on June 25, Kuhn said she was unable to respond to questions for this story but said she would be available during the first week of July .
Bohlen said one of the first responses she had to Milbank Shopko closure was to approach the state of South Dakota, along with representatives from other towns that lost a Shopko. Thirteen stores will close including several in eastern and north central South Dakota.
Local economic developers asked the state to help present and promote all 13 closing store as a whole. "That didn't come to much. No one is interested in retail," Bohlen said.
One company that works with cooperative projects did emerge and it could work in Milbank, Bohlen said.
Giese would like to have the Morris building be used by a retailer. "Another retail outlet would be wonderful," he said.