Wellington Town Board to reach out to Panhandle

About 100 residents attended the March 27 meeting of the Wellington Town Board to show support for Main Street Market, set to close on May 18.

“But 90 percent of the people who got up to speak admitted that they don’t shop there on a regular basis, just for picking up items occasionally,” said board member Jack Brinkhoff, who said he buys “100 percent” of his groceries at Main Street. “I had to tell them that they were partly responsible for the store’s demise.”

With three board members absent and Mayor Travis Vieria recusing himself because he is employed as assistant manager of Main Street, the board could not take any formal action. However, Brinkhoff said the members present agreed that the next step would be for the board to open discussions directly with Panhandle Coop in Scottsbluff, Neb., owners of the market.

“(Panhandle) have made it clear they are willing to listen,” Brinkhoff said. “And we’re willing to give it a shot, even if it means driving up to Nebraska. There are no guarantees, but we really don’t want to see the store go away.”

Panhandle President Bob Pile announced on Friday, March 23, that the coop could no longer afford to keep Wellington’s only grocery store open in the face of continuing financial losses.

One idea that Brinkhoff said the board is looking at very seriously is doing away with the town’s 3 percent sales tax on food. That would save Main Street about $100,000 per year, he said. Panhandle paid a total of $145,000 in sales taxes in 2011.

“Whether that would be enough of an incentive for them to stay, I don’t know, but it’s something we as a town could do,” Brinkhoff said, adding that he would not want to proceed with such a resolution until after receiving buy-in from Panhandle, since it would affect all food sales in town.

Brinkhoff said it would be “an uphill battle” to convince another major grocer to locate in Wellington if Main Street Market closes because it couldn’t make enough money after being in business for five years.

He also said that, as a private citizen, he has asked the owner of the building at Sixth and Jefferson streets to put a fair market value on the Main Street space. Panhandle has two years left on the current lease.

“Someone in the audience at the board meeting indicated that he might be willing to buy the building and work with Panhandle on (reducing the cost of) the lease – if the price were right,” Brinkhoff said. “The town can’t get involved in that, obviously, but private individuals might be able to step up. We’ll have to see what happens.”

1 Comment

  1. I sure hope they can figure something out. Besides losing the convenience of an in town store and all the people I have come to know over the last 5 years losing their jobs, I swear I could hear my land value dropping when the news came. Who will buy a house in Wellington now that you can’t even buy a carton of eggs here?

    I shop at two stores regularly: Sams and Main Street. I was in there weekly and was glad to support a local business. Some thoughts:
    1) Prices: They were higher at first, but came down to very reasonable levels. Still, I wonder if they could have just dropped the price of their soda pop, they could have gotten more people in. And more holiday shopping deals would help too.

    2) Brands: Many of the brands they carried were unfamiliar to me. I suspect they were mid-western companies. Still, I tried them out and grew to like them. However, at least half of the brands I started using were discontinued at some point. A bummer, but I kept shopping as I couldn’t get them anywhere else either.

    3) Advertising: Since most of the town has to get their mail from a box away from their home, I think many of their ad mailings came too late for customers to act on. How about something more timely to drive business? I think the east facing wall of the store would be a GREAT place for a digital sign displaying the latest and greatest deals. Kind of like the Walgreens signs, only bigger.

    In the end,I hope they can figure something out. I think business grew slowly, but it grew. And I think now with the threat of closure and maybe some changes in store, business could continue to grow. Main Street? Let us know more about those great sales, like the Daily Door Buster and the twice a year Meat Sales in a more timely manner. Give us another chance. The thought of losing our only store could be the boost you really needed.

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