To run the new store, the community hired Dan Leoni, manager of the now-closed Penney's and a man with 36 years experience in the business.
According to Leoni
, one of the main reasons for Penney's closure was the fact that too many business decisions were made not by the folks on the ground, but at company headquarters.Such centralized control, he
says, leads to a "cookie-cutter approach" that does not work well for small, rural stores--a situation thrust on small rural towns time and time again by governments and corporations far removed from local reality.
As a result, his
little Ely location was forced to buy too much inventory and then sell the excess at huge discounts just to get rid of it.Under that kind of system, the store simply couldn't make a profit.
Now that Leoni
is free to make decisions based on local market conditions, things are looking up.While his
total volume of business is less now than it was with Penney's, he
carries only two-thirds of the inventory.
"That means we can make money," Leoni
And they are.According to Leoni
, business has been excellent, beating early projections.
bosses (half the town owns the store, he
says) have taken great lengths to dress the place up.They renovated the store's façade and redecorated the inside.JC Penney, to its credit, donated all the old fixtures and racks-a $30,000 to $40,000 gift.
The new store, says Leoni
, is beautiful.Even more important, however, is what it all means to the community
."It's a source of pride," he
says."We're the little town that could."