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Petition circulating to keep Rugby Shopko open

By Staff | Feb 15, 2019

Several persons have signed an online petition to keep a local shopping center open, hoping what worked for the town of Stanley will work for Rugby.

Nearly 1,300 people as of Tuesday morning signed a petition on change.org to keep Rugby’s Shopko Hometown store open, after receiving news that Rugby’s store is one of 10 stores in the state slated for closure. Rugby Job Development Authority Executive Director Jessica Brossart started the petition, and the link to it is currently on the JDA’s Facebook page.

The Wisconsin-based retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Jan. 16.

Rugby’s store is slated for closure on May 12.

Rugby Shopko Manager Dave Lyon said several shoppers have approached him in the store since the bankruptcy was announced.

“Usually a lot of them will go, ‘Is it true? Is the store closing down?’ I just tell them, yeah, that’s the news I have as of right now,” Lyon noted as he made preparations for the store’s liquidation sale, set to begin this weekend.

Lyon said he was aware of the petition to save the Rugby store.

“Personally, I think anything we can do (is a good idea), but it’s tough to say,” Lyon indicated. “A lot of people point to Stanley (as a success story). When they petitioned, it was before the company was in Chapter 11. Once you’re in Chapter 11, a lot of stuff has to go back through the court, and be approved by the court.”

Lyon said Rugby Mayor Sue Steinke has contacted him for information on the store closing.

“I gave her the information that I have,” he said. “And I know that with the mayor, there are a lot of people in town that are working to try to coordinate their efforts and do the best they can to save this store you know, that’s kind of the focus right now from what I understand, is to save it. I would say, looking past that, we have to look at what we could do to give people a similar place to shop.”

Lyon described how some customers worried about the effect Shopko’s closure would have on the community.

“Most of the people say we need something in Rugby; we need a store similar to this,” he said. “What are we going to do? It’s going to hurt our town. A lot of people are very much wanting to keep this in our town.”

Lyon said many elderly customers would face difficulties if they shopping meant traveling long distances.

“And young people living here, if you have to travel to shop all the time (it would affect their decision to live in Rugby). The more things we have available for younger people, the more enticing it is to live here.”

Brossart said the petition effort is to show Shopko owners the community cares about keeping its store open, and wanted to let people know that the JDA, Mayor Steinke and the store building owners are working together to achieve it.

Brossart, in the meantime, encourages Rugby residents and petition signees to “stay positive”.

“There are good outcomes that could come from this,” Brossart said.

Stanley’s petition effort

Prior to the bankruptcy announcement, four stores in North Dakota had been slated for closure: Stanley, Oakes, Mayville and Lisbon.

Stanley residents found out their store was closing on Dec. 5, 2018, and Stanley’s BNC National Bank Branch Manager Jenny Gaaskjolen started petition efforts the next day.

“I felt that Shopko was too important to our community to just let it go without a fight,” said Gaaskjolen in an email to the Tribune, “This store is not only lost jobs and revenue, it’s a loss of quality of life.” Gaaskjolen added the nearest comparable store to Stanley’s location was more than 50 miles away.

The petition to keep Stanley’s store open, which was addressed to Shopko headquarters and Sun Capital (Shopko’s holding company, received over 1,500 signatures–which Gaaskjolen said was over half of the town’s population. The following Friday after the petition, store management announced the Stanley Shopko location would remain open for the foreseeable future.

Oakes, Lisbon and Mayville locations are still slated to close, with their last day of operation on March 2.

Beulah’s Shopko location is slated to close on April 7, and Rolla’s store will close one week later.

Shopko locations in Rugby, Bowman, Carrington, Cavalier and Grafton are all slated to close on May 12.

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