I wonder how these 58 workers feel about the "Wal-Mart is good for the world" argument today.
On the other hand, County Market didn't appear to have strong survival instincts. Back when we were fighting over distribution with outside rack companies, I wrote a stack of letters to grocery store and restaurant owners complaining about the way the matter was handled and seeking relief. Three businesses, including two grocery stores, contacted me immediately. County Market never responded. Not one word.
Of course, I'm just one guy. And I don't know much about the grocery business, except that margins are notoriously low, so high volume is essential. And County Market doesn't know much about me -- for all they know, I have nine kids and 36 grandkids, all breathlessly awaiting my advice on where to do their grocery shopping. Not to mention, of course, that I am the proprietor of a business that generates a few hundred thousand bucks in revenue each year and also of the wildly influential Billings Blog. So you'd think it would have been worth 37 cents (now 39 cents) to County Market to write a letter and tell me, "Tough luck, pal."
But they didn't think so, which makes me suspect that they treated a lot of other complaints the same way. And now they're closing. Not too big a surprise.
It hurts, though, when these big Outpost distribution points close. The Kit-Kat Cafe, Gibson's, the two Elmer's restaurants, Smith's -- you're talking close to a thousand papers a week right there. Some people will just pick up the paper elsewhere, of course, but not all. National chains tend to be unsympathetic to the need for a locally owned press, so as they come in, we get squeezed out.
UPDATE: Downtown Billings has been thinking about this, too.
2ND UPDATE: Comments have veered into a discussion of supermarket discount cards, so here' a link to a site that makes the case against them. I also wrote about the issue here.
3RD UPDATE: Ed at City Lights makes a good point about Good Earth Market. My wife does a lot of shopping there already, and I'm sure it will continue to get a larger share of our grocery dollar.