February 15, 2012 | LXXI, No. 46

Misplaced a local business lately?

Morgan's Musings

OK, be honest. When was the last time you misplaced your regular set of vehicle/house keys and had to revert to the used ones that were stowed in your hip pocket or bottom of your purse? I’ll be honest, I used mine last week.

Here’s another: How often have you said to yourself, “How long will that new store/restaurant stay in business?” When we see that new store-front closing shop, we mutter to ourselves, “Another one bites the dust.” Although Linda and I no longer consider ourselves newcomers after 32 years, (Did you read about Frank and Elaine Sanford in the STAR last week. 70 years of marriage…WOW!) when the doors of a new business (or medical practice) opens and closes in less than a few years and you see their U-Haul truck leaving town, we anguish. When we came to town in 1980, most of the businesses were well-established and we knew no one. My federal job disintegrated in less than four years. In that short period of time, our daughter graduated from LR in 1982 and Linda was well established with the NPS.

We feel sad for every empty storefront that is vacant today. What didn’t they know when they closed up shop after such a short time? I winged it about 30 years when I told a friend in Seattle, who wanted to open a gun shop, “Plan on living out of your own pocket the first two years of business.” I believe I hit that pretty close.

Do new business owners know anything about the business they are opening? How many stores or restaurants occupied today will close by March 1, 2013? The most recent example is the John Dough’s restaurant, who was serving customers a month ago today but are no longer in business.

I was sorry to see those doors close. The building had two eateries in less than a year! We were discussing this at supper the other evening. We feel that prospective business operators should have more than a clue as to what it takes to run an eatery in the Coulee. They should be serving the locals before the tourist season opens (June-September). Weren’t the business owners “skookum” on the restaurant trade? Larry Maier, former restaurant owner, (he owned the Wildlife, where Pepper Jack’s is today) told me “16- to 18-hour days” are common in his profession when starting out. Are new owners programmed for these hours?

After 32 years, the two of us have a few personal thoughts on what has attracted us to local eateries. In no specific order, because we are eating out less often and taking less return fire, those are the rounds that hurt. If you want our opinion, we’ll be happy to tell you. And if you haven’t been in town long, you’ll soon find out yourself.

One of the businesses that we had patronized since 1980, was Maier’s Wildlife Restaurant, where Pepper Jack’s is now. I’m sure very many oldsters still refer to it as the Wildlife.

Maier said the new business owners must take care of the locals. “It’s the locals that will keep them going when times are tough during the off season,” he advised. “Join the chamber of commerce and get to know them. Service is important.”

Comments from readers and blurbs from “Coulee Cops” set the scene from last week’s newspaper.

Two juveniles, 16 and 17 years old, were arrested for possession of stolen property, burglary, minor in possession, obstructing a public servant in “Cops,” while the wrestling competitors were “impressive off the canvas” and out-of-town spectators admired their conduct off the mat. As R.C. Covington suggested, we should put up a sign to honor PRCA bull rider Shane Proctor, just to show others that there is more to the coulee than law breakers.

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