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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mr. Movies Closing; LAIC Goals Turning to "Backward Madison"

So a local businessman makes a financial decision that puts a perfectly good company out of business and six employees out of work at Christmastime. Do we call that teamwork?

The Madison Daily Leader reports that video/game-rental store Mr. Movies is going out of business. I had to read that headline carefully: Madison has two such stores, the newer corporate franchise Mr. Movies, next to JubiShine, and older locally owned Movie Guy, in the Schaefer Plaza of Commerce and Residential Development. Honestly, I thought Movie Guy would be the first to fold—since when does the little local outfit win against the deep-pocketed colonialism of franchises sucking the life and independence out of communities?

But this closing does not appear to be a function of normal market competition. Mr. Movies was chugging along just fine under the management of Brad Wede. The axe comes from landlord and grocery monopolist Dan Roemen, who owns the property and the adjoining Sunshine Foods. Mr. Movies' lease runs out at year end, and Roemen declined to renew it. MDL's Elisa Sand reports that "he plans to expand his business."

Oh really? JubiShine plans to expand its product selection? Are they planning to add products that we can't currently buy here in Madison? Maybe add some more baby products, or an organic section like Hy-Vee? Or are we just getting a bigger liquor section? Because heaven knows Madison doesn't already have enough places to buy booze.

Wede says he's trying to find a way to keep the business in Madison. "I hate to see Madison lose something else," he tells MDL's Sand. "We've taken so many hits." He's right, especially on both the culture and jobs front. If we're all supposed to be a team behind the Forward Madison goals (and as I review my old Forward Madison flier from the LAIC, there's Dan Roemen's name on the list of development council members), why would we make any business decision that reduces jobs, competition, consumer choice, and entertainment options? Will the expansion of an existing store really replace the six jobs lost by evicting another independent business?

I can think of a number great spaces where we could keep Mr. Movies downtown, including the current Miller Construction office on North Egan and the old Rosebud building across from MDL on South Egan. Those spaces both housed Madison's original video store, Adventureland Video, back in the good old days when we'd check out a movie and a big honking VCR with the Johnny Five top-loading cassette ejector. But Wede's already been looking around, and he says the spaces he's checked so far don't satisfy corporate franchise requirements. Nuts!

I wonder: is there any chance we can build a new building? Maybe we can get some LAIC development dollars to help build a sparkly new building to keep this employer in town. And as much as I like competition, maybe it's time for our entertainment competitors to work together and build a new entertainment complex for Madison. Carol Frager, owner of Movie Guy, also runs the West Twin movie theater. I love having the opportunity to see big screen movies in Madison, but that 30-year-old facility is deteriorating.

Maybe Frager and Wede could join forces to build a new movie complex in town, perhaps right in that inviting empty slot between Montgomery's Furntiure and Lewis. We could move the movie theater in from that old gravel lots to a nice paved urban, more easily accessible to pedestrians (there are no sidewalks out to the current theater; plus you have to risk your life dodging cars headed for drinks at Nicky's and the bowling alley). Put in two screens for new movies, add video and game rental next door, like the downtown theater does in Chamberlain... there's your business plan!

Losing any business in Madison, when retail is down and unemployment up to 7% heading into the holidays, is bad. Closing a healthy business due to one landlord's decision is even worse. Let's put some heads together, Madison, and figure out a way to keep six jobs and some competition in our local entertainment market.


  1. Cory,

    Think about some of the things I have said about leadership and leadership developement in Madison and across America.

    This is Leadership Madison, self first.

    Joseph G Thompson

    Joseph G Thompson

  2. Cory,
    I am saddened to read about the closing of Mr. Movies. Building a movie complex in Madison seems out of the question because, in reality, many, many people travel to Brookings and Sioux Falls to buy their groceries, where they can also rent movies and purchase clothing. I'm troubled...why is there only one grocery store in Madison? I hear many complaints of Madison having "nothing to offer". Madison USED to have many grocery stores (before my time). They also had dress shops, clothing stores, etc. Many people are aware of this and complain about it, yet nothing is ever done about it. So...for those of us who care, where do we begin with change?

    Robin Kemper
    Sioux Falls resident
    Madison business owner
    Concerned about Madison's future

  3. Robin,

    This is all a function of big government's bigger is better agenda.

  4. Have to disagree with everything thus far. Hopefully Dan R. is simply correcting a mistake. The enlargement should have been a larger grocery, wider isles, and a bigger deli back then. Now he has another chance to meet our community needs. This is an opportunity for a much-improved grocery store in a terrific location. If Amert hadn't built that twin home it could have been that much better.

  5. Steve, could you pipe down on this one? We're trying to solve a local problem, not have an ideological discussion.

    John, maybe correcting that earlier mistake will provide better grocery service. If it does that and generates more economic activity, then good. But we are also seeing one business push an unrelated business out of business. We're losing an employer, six jobs, and competition in another market. I'm having trouble with the cost-benefit analysis there.

    Robin... that's the conversation I'd like to have. Why are we losing competition? Why don't we see someone stepping forward to solve a propblem everyone seems to recognize?

  6. Steve Sibson12/09/2009 5:04 PM

    Sorry Cory,

    The solution is simple...go out and start a business of your own that employees six people instead of waiting for government.

    And now we have a second property rights attack, this time on Dan Roeman.

  7. We're really at a crossroads in Madison. Losing such a tremendous amount of retail business over the past ten years, yet still maintaining retail sales tax growth, says we're evolving, not declining. The recent sales tax drop of 20% is disturbing, but maybe there was something unusually large in 2008? If you want to discover all the unexpected opportunities Madison could offer for needed businesses, simply let your fingers walk through the yellow pages and write down every business or service firm we currently don't have. Not all will be viable with our population, but firms looking to add services can benefit from this type of brainstorming. We certainly need more "team" and less "me, me, me" in our business community.

  8. Sorry Cory, this is for Robin.

    Robin, you asked "Where do we begin with change?"

    I am an old retired GI who still believes that most solutions are simple, it is the implimenters of the solutions that make things difficult.

    Off the top of my head I offer two solutions:

    Business owners who believe in and practice community betterment. I am not an expert, but Madison has one who is. Stop at the Dairy Queen and talk to DeLon.

    Customer first. Once again I'm not an expert, but you can stop at Dakota Drug and talk to Bob. After hunting all day in Woonsocket, he opened his store at 9:30PM on a Friday nite to get a prescription for me, before he went home.

    I grew up here and remember when Madison was a trade center. I also remember that most of those business owners were concerned about Madison and not what they could get out of the citizens of Madison.

    When you offer me what Dakota Drug and the Dairy Queen offer me I'll pay a little more to keep them in business. They are the only businesses in Madison that will never lose my business.

    Joseph G Thompson

  9. I fail to see why this is looked at as putting a business out of business just because it lost its lease, since the owner of the property decided to expand the property/business that he owns. The owner of Sunshine has a perfect right to do what he feels is in the best interest of his business, and possibly the people of Madison.

    A lease for a certain period of time is just that; you are given permission to use my property for X amount of time and X amount of rent. At the end of the lease, if it isn't renewed, you need to find a different location for your business. There are other places in town to move into, are there not? It doesn't have to be an ultimatum to close the doors, just move the doors.

    Last I knew, the owner of a property has the right to do what is legal with his property (at least they did before the Kelo decision, and we see what happened there).

    I would like to see competition in grocery stores in Madison too. But is that Sunshine's fault? Part of the problem is that traveling to Sioux Falls or Brookings to shop is now thought of as just running next door, not as the long jaunt it used to be. And that leads to the vicious circle, more travel out of town, more buying out of town, loss of business in town, and thus the need to buy more out of town. Not saying it's right, it's just an is.

    But again, there's no reason that Sunshine's expansion should force the closure of the movie store, unless the movie store doesn't really want to remain. It doesn't have to be an either/or situation, it can include both remaining successful.

  10. In attempting to process the comments, I will respond to some of them. First of all, I was not meaning to attack any person or entity in Madison. I have heard MANY comments/complaints about what Madison has to offer/doesn't have to offer. I never attacked Mr. Roemen for his decision to expand. I simply raise the question, as many have before, how do we attract more to shop Madison. I'm not specifically asking about MY business, because frankly, I advertise mostly out-of-town to draw people to Madison. Rod, couldn't agree with you more...we need more "team effort" and less "me, me, me...". And, Mr. Thompson, I couldn't agree with you more about the two businesses you mentioned, however, I think this goes far beyond everyone being nice to their customers and realizing that the customer is always first. True, this is one of the ways you obtain customers and keep them, but Madison needs to attract MORE BUSINESSES and keep them. People have become so complacent..."this is the way it is, it will never change" is an attitude that never gets anyone very far.


  11. Mr. Thompson...after thinking a bit longer on these comments, and after just completing my grocery shopping, what you have expressed is EXACTLY how I feel about HyVee. Although, I don't pay MORE to keep them in business...I pay LESS, quite a bit LESS.


  12. This morning an employee told me the space is pegged for "liquid entertainment." If true and Dan R. gives us another liquor store I'm off to HyVee every chance I can get without any guilt. If he fails to improve this store hopefully a competitor comes in and gives us what we need.

  13. John, Why am I NOT surprised? How many bars are in Madison? Liquor stores?

  14. The funning thing is the Manager of the Movie Stores family owns the Biggest Liquor Store in Madison. Now Dan R. and his Minority Interest Along with the Abstintee Majority Out of Town Owners of Sunshine will be in Direct Competion with the Wede's on a Larger Scale.

    Also, the new wave of video rental are small kiosks that resemble a vending machine. The Sunshine's in Sioux Falls have them already. Hyvee's, Walmarts, and McDonalds have Redbox small space and same basic product. Also, much cheaper to rent at $1 per night.

    Madison really does not need more comeptition on the liqor front but could really use another grocery store. Someday Maybe Hy-vee, Coborns (there is one in Pipestone) or Aldi's(generic thrift grocery store) will look at providing some real compettion in Madison. Until then I will shop the specials and by the rest out of town at a more reasonable price.

    Matthew M. Siedschlaw

  15. Robin:

    In my opinion, the problem is that many stores were trying to compete on price when they simply can't. They didn't offer better service, selection, or prices. The only thing that they offered was convenience. However, shoppers are only willing to accept that if the price difference is small between a local store and a big box supplier.

    Eventually, local stores in Madison were charging 1.5 to 1.75 for the same good in Sioux Falls. That is what really broke the retail opportunity in Madison.

    In addition, many goods that had been somewhat specialized became commodities and no longer required specialized knowledge. "Electronic" stores are a great example of this all over. They are all going out of business because price is the only thing that matters anymore.

    I also tend to think that the internet has had a significant impact. Before its wide spread use researching many product offerings before making a purchasing decision was tedious. Now I can hop online and within 5 minutes find out who has the best price and quality. Previously, a citizen in Madison might have made the rounds to the local Madison businesses and made their selection. Now when they hop online, they may find out Target in SF carriers are far superior version at half the price. Consumer knowledge has exploded and now they no longer need to go in to learn about a product.

    And for my generation, the internet is how we choose what and where to buy. If it's not posted online, it doesn't exist to us. I don't "shop". No one I know does that and if they did, they would go to the store with the largest selection, not a local boutique.

    Really, the only way to compete is to sell something unique to a niche market that hasn't been turned into a commodity. This requires knowledge, insight, and luck. So, just "starting a business" is quite hard now.


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