By THE DAILY HAMPSHIRE GAZETTE
Monday, May 30, 2011
GREENFIELD – Organizers of a proposed community-owned department store for downtown are in the process of returning investors’ money.
“It was a good try,” said John Waite, a Greenfield Mercantile Inc. board member, who said investors have begun receiving checks and this will continue until everyone is paid back.
“This was a safe investment for people,” Waite said. “Everyone who invested is getting their money back. No one lost a penny.”
Waite said he is sad that the project never got off the ground, but said a lot was learned in the process.
“We weren’t able to do it, but we still think it’s a viable project and believe that someone, maybe an entrepreneur, could get it going again,” said Waite.
“This was not done in vain – we may have lost some time, but people didn’t lose their money.”
What started about seven years ago as an $800,000 idea was scaled back in late 2008. Organizers said they would consider a 3,000-square-foot store instead of the originally planned 8,000- to 10,000-square-foot store that was going to sell affordable children’s, women’s and men’s clothing, as well as housewares.
Through numerous campaigns, organizers had raised about $55,000.
Waite said earlier this year that some investors had called and asked for their money back. Those investors received their money earlier this year, when the Greenfield Mercantile had returned between $7,000 and $8,000.
Waite said one of the problems the project had faced was that organizers all had full-time jobs and had been working on the community-owned store as volunteers.
He said four or five of the original board members stayed on throughout the long process, while another four or five had left.
Last year, organizers downsized the project from an $800,000 endeavor to a $100,000 start-up that would sell children’s clothing.
Waite said organizers and investors wanted to locate the store downtown or as close to downtown as possible. Another issue they ran into was finding the right space.
The idea for a community-owned discount department store arose following the closing of Ames department store on the Mohawk Trail in 2002. In some quarters, it had been seen as a way to obviate the need for a big-box chain retailer like Walmart to come to Greenfield.
The town’s Planning Board recently approved plans for a 135,000-square-foot discount department store on French King Highway.
For more information or to request a refund, call the Greenfield Mercantile Inc.
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