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      Hanging together: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” — Henry Ford

Wedmore Hardware had everything.

If you needed a bolt, a plumbing fixture, or a specialty screwdriver, Bud Mills would find it for you.

When you walked into Wedmore’s on Main Street in Chamberlain, you knew you were in a hardware store.

It smelled like a hardware store because it was loaded with hardware – soup to nuts as they say – only I don’t think Wedmore’s sold soup.  Nuts, probably. That faint but reassuring odor of machine oil and lawn and garden products hit you the moment you opened the door.

If for some unusual reason Wedmore’s didn’t carry what you were looking for, you just walked up the street a block to the Coast to Coast store, where Sandy Tyrrell likely would be able to fill the bill.

Two great hardware stores within a block of each other and both prospered. Later, in the 1960s, Midwest Supply came to town and expanded the hardware picture, but with a slightly different mix of inventory, providing more emphasis on farm supply.

That was then. Today, there are no hardware stores downtown in my hometown. Midwest Supply shuttered a year or two ago, and recently, True Value up on the hill announced it was closing.

Oh sure, hardware supplies are still available in Chamberlain, primarily from Bomgaars, a family-owned chain based in Sioux City. And it’s a nice store.

But it’s not the same. Good people work there, but it’s not locally owned. The store pays property taxes and supplies jobs to people who need them, but it’s different from when Bud or Sandy ran their own stores.

Retail stores closing their doors is not unique to Chamberlain. It’s been a tough year for smaller towns across the state. Which isn’t to say large towns haven’t suffered. Rapid City not only lost its Shopko store, but Toys ‘R’ Us, Herberger’s and Sears. Other larger trade centers tell the same sad story.

What’s going on? Is it all about online buying? If so, then the state needs to rethink pulling back on the 4.5 percent state sales tax when internet sales reach a certain threshold because declining storefront tax collections may offset those gains.

It seems clear that those living in smaller towns and in the trade area must find ways to support one another. They could find worse advice than that offered by Ben Franklin after he signed the Declaration of Independence:

“We must indeed all hang together or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

March 27, 2019