Store Closing? No Problem in Cambridge

[imgbelt img=GeneralStore.jpg]When a regional chain retailer decided to close its store in Cambridge, Nebraska, the town had an answer. Cambridge would open its own.

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He added that the committee didn’t have enough time to complete a cost analysis, but their educated guess was that the community would need $250,000 to reopen a store. There was an attractive feature of having an investor-owned store: The business would be owned and managed from Cambridge, not some corporate office hundreds of miles away.

Raising $250,000

Two weeks later, the same committee held another meeting that was geared toward potential investors. 

The group laid out the plan for how the process of starting a new business would work. The store would be organized as a Nebraska Limited Liability Company with individuals investing a minimum of $500 and further investments in $500 increments. The plan was contingent on raising $250,000, the amount necessary to begin operation.

Committee member Tammy Sexton stressed that the investments were more about the community than making a buck. “Our objective here is to keep a business open,” she said. “There is no guarantee of a return on investment, and no guarantee of a return of investment.”

A risk? Sure. But the money came — and it came quickly. 

By the end of the meeting, $45,000 had been invested in the new venture. Ten days later, the new company had raised $112,000 and Cambridge was about halfway to its goal.

When the deadline for investment arrived, there was no announcement of the final amount invested, only that the goal had been achieved. Over 100 people had invested in the store.

“It was nice to see that money continued to come in,” Heitmann said, noting that there was no trouble reaching the goal of $250,000. “It just tells us that we’re doing the right thing and that people want the store back.”

The Next Step

While raising a quarter-of-a-million dollars may have seemed like the toughest step, the most frustrating challenges came next.

By February, vendors were lined up for buying inventory and work had begun to clean and redecorate the building. But time kept ticking away and, still, no opening date was announced.

The process took long enough that some community members worried about keeping the beloved and experienced Scott Orcutt as manager.

Orcutt, who had guided the previous store to profitability and was popular with the regular patrons, had been without a job since Duckwalls officially closed in January.

“Should we also take a collection help to keep Scott around?” Arla Mae Pearson, a regular at the store, asked at one of the public meetings.

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