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Shopping in the coulee

A common dilemma


Last updated 10/3/2018 at 12:13pm

Results of a recent online survey of Star readers

"I need some new socks."

That is a common experience among human beings in the 21st century. But with the closing of The Variety Store last year, where does a Coulee-ite buy something as basic as socks?

Local area residents seem to all make regular trips to Spokane, Moses Lake, or Omak to purchase things they can't buy in the area. Either they buy those things in another city, or they order them online from a business such as Amazon.

Those The Star asked all said they make regular trips to one of these cities, once a month if not more, to buy things they can't buy locally. Some trips are made especially for shopping, although people tend to try to kill some more birds with the same stone and go to doctor appointments, visit family, or other things during those trips.

Some feel that online retailers such as Amazon have hurt the local economy. "Yes, definitely," said Grand Coulee resident Nick Heilman without hesitation. "Why would you buy something here if you could get it cheaper online?" he asked.

Others feel that Amazon hasn't hurt the local economy. "I think that people will buy something here if they can," said Peggy Nevsimal, executive director of the Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce. Nevsimal feels that Amazon can't hurt a business that doesn't exist in the area.

She, just like many area residents, also makes regular trips to Spokane to buy things.

An employee at Coulee Hardware, Andrew Reichlin, said that it is a regular occurrence for tourists to ask where to buy a bathing suit, for example. "We used to tell them to go to the Variety Store," Reichlin said.

Currently, Coulee Playland and Sunbanks Lake Resort seem to be the only places where someone could buy a bathing suit, although other businesses carry some floatation devices, flip flops, or other products a tourist may enjoy at local beaches.

Jacob Wagner

The empty storefront last know as the Variety Store on Midway Avenue

The thrift store at the Grand Coulee Dam Senior Center has a variety of items for sale, including used clothing.

"Everything I'm wearing except the underwear is from the seniors, even this apron," Heilman said at his job as a cook there. Heilman draws the line at underwear, as far as wearing used clothing goes.

Nevsimal said the topic of the need for Variety Store-like shopping in the area comes up weekly in her conversations with business owners and other area residents.

Longtime area residents said that when the option to buy their clothes here was here, that's where they preferred to buy clothes. Such businesses have come and gone over the decades.

Will the void left by the closing of The Variety Store be filled by a new business? Or will people simply turn to online retailers, and other cities for these needs?


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