Crazy Days shows the enduring legacy of local businesses | News, Sports, Jobs


The sun shone on Marshall’s Crazy Days in 2022 enough to make people want to get out and shop.

This led to crowds in the downtown business district and at businesses in other locations. A wide range of special offers and promotions were available. Everyone loved the annual Kiddie Parade.

When I looked at one of our front pages earlier in the week, I wondered if any major business news would cast a shadow over Crazy Days. It was announced that Thrifty White Drug on West Main Street was closing immediately after many years.

I considered it and decided after reading the article that it didn’t have to cast a shadow. It’s just the latest in a long line of business changes.

People who remember the 20th century can remember many places of business that no longer exist. Two of the main examples are the Sears store and the Olson and Lowe clothing store.

There are many more; the S&L store on Third Street, Kay’s Shoes, Gag’s Drug, Ben Franklin and many more. They were successful in their period, then eventually faded from the scene.

At least in Marshall, other new companies have been created to replace them. Many of these began around the millennium or shortly after, a period of major commercial expansion in the city.

The character of the city center has changed. There are fewer stores that operate as one-stop shops, those that offer a wide range of merchandise in their main product areas.

Thrifty White was the latest in a series of downtown pharmacies that catered to customer needs in the traditional way. The chain began when pharmacies were almost always their own individual businesses. We didn’t have any in grocery stores or discount centers.

Things changed in the 1990s when these types of businesses expanded into pharmaceuticals and other new product divisions such as optical and banking.

Many consumers have responded by opting to shop at diversified department stores. We see it every day with the heavy traffic in the shopping area between Marshall’s Hy-Vee and Menard’s. When this area became established, it replaced the Market Street Mall as the main local business site, a very popular mall in the late 1970s and 1980s.

It’s hard to say what the future will bring. We can safely conclude that there will be other changes, other companies that disappear after many years and other new ones with a good market niche that emerge and achieve success in the 21st century.

Still, it’s not exactly a pleasant change at first when a business you’ve been shopping at for many years closes its doors. We know it’s because of economic changes and consumer choice, but there’s something not quite right.

It seems that by choosing the big box stores, these hundreds of consumers are making a choice that limits the choices for me and for others. This resulted in consolidations. Many communities in the rural Midwest that once had multiple small pharmacies, hardware stores, and grocery stores are now just the big ones, except for a few that can still operate on a small scale with a sufficient market.

Everything went well for me this week. I looked at the drugstore choices and found one that will definitely meet my needs.

The pursuit of smaller establishments depends largely on the clientele. It will take enough people deciding that they want to work with a smaller store, that they see a difference in terms of service and convenience.

We should hope that there will always be good competition in any product category. This is essential to ensure that customers will not be taken for granted, that good service will always be part of what keeps them coming back.

Every Crazy Days we see many examples of businesses across Marshall going the extra mile to promote themselves and offer high quality merchandise at great prices.

It’s a sign that local commerce can continue to thrive in the 21st century. Even with many changes, even though business districts look very different from a generation ago, there is still a goal among business people to please the public.

This leads to lasting and successful business relationships with many loyal customers. That’s enough to sustain a well-balanced retail and service sector for many years to come.

— Jim Muchlinski is a longtime journalist and contributor to the Marshall Independent



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