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Madison Business Protests Thrift Store Plan; Madville Times Goes Downtown

Last updated on 2012.06.27

The Madison Chamber of Commerce and Lake Area Improvement Corporation are all about banners and signs as a vital part of economic development. After twenty years in business, the Four Seasons Flea Market has finally upgraded its signage:

Four Seasons Flea Market, Madison, South Dakota, June 25, 2012
Four Seasons Flea Market, Madison, South Dakota, June 25, 2012

The Four Seasons font is crisper than before, and the alternative venders spelling will provoke all sorts of lively grammarian debates on Main Street.

But you want to see the real upgrade? Zoom in to that yellow sign in the window:

Signs for Madville Times on Main Street, Four Seasons Flea Market, Madison, South Dakota, June 25, 2012
Signs for Madville Times on Main Street, Four Seasons Flea Market, Madison, South Dakota, June 25, 2012

Madville Times fighting for local business... that's got to be driving the Chamber nuts.

Four Seasons Flea Market: front door signs protesting tax-subsidized thrift store
Four Seasons Flea Market: front door signs protesting tax-subsidized thrift store

"Why should I pay to build a business that will take my profits away?"

"You want a business? Use your own money! I did!"

QR code for Madville Times blog posts on "thrift store"
Hey, Gayle! Stick this Madville Times "thrift store" QR code on those posters!

With these signs, Four Seasons owner Gayle Mayberry is using her Main Street windows as an old-school blog, making her views on the million-dollar publicly subsidized thrift store proposal clear to everyone who strolls by Madison's busiest intersection. The signs for Madville Times aren't clickable hyperlinks, but they get the point across. (Hmm... maybe I should talk to Gayle about making those signs "clickable" with a QR code that folks could scan with their phones and tablets! And while we're at it, maybe we could add a comment section where people could tape their thoughts on notecards under each poster....)

Argument against tax-subsidized thrift store on Main Street window, Four Seasons Flea Market, Madison, South Dakota, June 25, 2012
Spending tax revenues to reduce tax revenues?

I've said in the past that I respect business owners in Madison who are willing to risk a little public criticism by engaging in political speech. But I am extra pleased to see an entrepreneur who is not a big fish in the Madison business pond (slough? pothole?) taking a very vocal stand against Madison's power elites. Of course, when over 80% of residents oppose the thrift store proposal, maybe speaking out against the plan is good for business!

Now let's see if those elites are listening. The Madison City Commission tabled discussion of the thrift store for 30 days on May 29; that 30 days runs out this week. The first meeting at which city commissioners can reconsider the $150,000 handout thrift store organizers are requesting is next week, Monday, July 2, 5:30 p.m., at City Hall. The Lake County Commission will likely hear a similar subsidy request from the thrift store group the next morning. If you want our city and county commissioners to do the right thing, contact them this week (click for city commissioner contacts and county commissioner contacts).


  1. Daniel 2012.06.26

    Just curious....who are the Madison elite that you are always ranting about? Please, I would like names to put to the poo you are always slinging. I'm just curious who these so-called horrible people are.

    "Over 80% of residents oppose the thrift store proposal" to back that up with something other than a poll on a liberal blog? I fail to see any sort of scientific methods used to obtain that number. Most statisticians would laugh in your face. I've voted numerous times in the same poll which makes the entire thing irrelevant.

    I have no dog in this fight, but don't lie about made up stats that are supposed to represent this community by using a small segment of liberal blog viewers. If you want to slam people, don't hide behind some label like "Elite".

  2. Carter 2012.06.26

    For this being a liberal blog, have you noticed how many hardcore Conservatives are showing up in your comments section, Cory? I wonder how many of these Conservatives are against the thrift store.

  3. Carter 2012.06.26

    Also, Daniel, you seem very agitated about this "80% opposing the thrift store" thing. Why is it that a Conservatives (and if I'm correct, libertarian) such as yourself is so against Government and government spending and government interference, but when liberals start pushing against the same thing, you feel the need to jump fences? Or are you not actually a "Conservative" but really more of an "anti-liberal"?

  4. Grandma 2012.06.26

    You couldn't have voted more than once on these poles from this site. Once you vote - you can't vote again. I tried it and it doesn't work. (for my own curiosity since you mentioned it) You sound like you have a bone to pick Daniel. You need to just put it out there and ask who the people on the committee are. The polls are interesting and just informative. There are "elite" in Madison and their are "elite" in any town. They are the ones who use their old money, their weight and push their personal agenda. We all know that. But-I would like to know Daniels last name. If you've read the "Madville Times" much you know who I am.

  5. Daniel 2012.06.26

    Carter - The only reason I am opposed to the 88% number is because Cory is trying to portray it as a logical representation of the Madison population. Also, I know there are many out-of-towners who post here as well which can skew that representation. That is all. I'm a math major and I studied statistics so I know how having a poll on an online blog can be very misleading. I don't feel the the new thrift store should need help and I feel it is a waste, but let's at least use logical arguments for/against.

    Grandma - I could prove to you I can vote 3 million times if I really wanted to. It takes only a few minutes to setup new VM's, funneled through a proxy and assigned different ips. I don't read Madville times often and I don't know/nor care who you are. I respect your opinion and I expect the same. If there are elite in Madison, I'd like to know their names as I moved here from a long ways away to pursue the economic opportunities in this area so I'm not up to speed on who the big dogs are that we are supposed to fight against.

  6. Douglas Wiken 2012.06.26

    Daniel Whatever,
    If you no longer live in Madison why do you care who the big dogs really are? I don't live in Madison, so I don't vote on Cory's polls related to Madison. I also doubt many normal people even with skill to do it would want to waste time posting multiple times and for what.

    The main problem with blog polls is that the voters are self-selected. That sample may or may not be representative of the whole community. It might be skewed just as a poll of all Tesla electric vehicle drivers would be.

    If you know anything about small South Dakota towns, you would know there are forces in all communities with inordinate influence which often runs under cover of "progress" and other names, but is actually acting in ways related to the rawest of short-term self-interest. This is nothing new, my dear departed FIL referred to local forces here as the "Main Street Mafia" and that was 40 years ago. I might not refer to them as that, but when I see our local school board deciding to put new carpet into a building they plan to abandon in the next year, it seems logical to see who sells and installs carpet and perhaps even if they have relatives or friends on the school board or married to them.

  7. John Hess 2012.06.26

    It would take a strangely motivated person to make up some new VMs and funnel them through a new proxy just to mess up a Madville Times poll. Daniel is right however the results are way too low to consider representative, but they do match the Amazing Madison poll (which did let me vote twice). I was curious. But I do take people's opinions seriously and not one has said they support this (I did at first unless giving it more thought). But I do talk to more than just crazy liberal types, but as Carter pointed out the liberals should be for it and the Conservatives against it. It's just something that doesn't make sense based on our communities needs and for that matter viability. I see this somewhat similarly to my unhappiness with the Randy Schaefer TIF. That didn't make sense either but there were only about 5 of us that gave a hoot. This has struck a bigger nerve, which is a good thing. But Daniel, as Douglas pointed out, they are not elites, they are mobsters so we can't tell you who they are or we might come up missing. You wouldn't want that on your conscience, would you???

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.26

    Dan Buresh, don't play stupid. You work for (or at least have; where are you now?) one of the elites, Darin Namken. The other elites are Prostrollos, Heartland, East River, and other members of the LAIC and Chamber boards who think that their definition of community is all that matters and that those of us who dare disagree are to be marginalized.

    And you're not offering proof on either the KJAM or Madville Times polls. They are the only real data available. The elites want us to believe their wishful thinking; I'm at least trying to gauge real community opinion.

  9. PrairieLady 2012.06.26

    I live in SF and so did not vote. I would guess people who come on the blog and are not from the Madison area would not vote either. Maybe I am naive, but there is something called respect.
    What happened to common sense? If you have people paying taxes and you want them in your community as a business, you do not as a city, try to be the competition. That is not a good business climate, at least IMHO. I would guess there are more beneficial ways to spend that money.

  10. Daniel 2012.06.26

    I guess I'm not elite enough to use a pseudo-name so back to Daniel. Thanks for posting the so-called elite. I guess I just call them entrepreneurs who are willing to risk their livelihoods by employing many people in the community and making this a better place to live. I've volunteered side by side with some of the folks you listed and I feel it is an injustice to overlook all the good they do and concentrate on any mistakes they have made in the past. Not everything is a conspiracy motivated by malicious intent as you so blatantly try to portray here so often. I guess that will be something we just have to disagree on. You also left out a few names that you sent to me an email so I'll let you post them as well. Also, since you are so concerned with everyone knowing who I am, maybe you can fill me on who the others are posting with pseudo-names or without a last name.

    One last thing....many claim that bringing in competition is wrong, so why does everyone expect them to bring in another grocery store? Shouldn't this work for any business industry? Or is it just businesses that affect your checkbook?

    John - I would hope if people are being killed, something is being done, but I'll just chalk that up to another exaggeration and unfounded statement that I usually find on here.

  11. Daniel 2012.06.26

    Doug - I responded to you but Cory didn't agree with it so he removed it. I live in Madison, as I stated in previous posts. The poll is irrelevant and using it to push an agenda is logically inaccurate. I'm glad we both can agree on that. I'd also love to know more about this carpet conspiracy.

  12. larry kurtz 2012.06.26

    Hey, Dan: obsessive use of the first-person singular suggests a poor self image. Why does your life suck so badly?

  13. Grandma 2012.06.26

    Daniel, Some of these "elite" people have contributed to the community in very fine ways. The major problem is that they do not include open meetings and get input before they say they are going to do something. This is the type of problem that has happened with many projects. They just need to understand that this should be a community project and should involve everyone's input. There are some areas that need a lot of help and improvement without putting another thrift store to the front. We do have plenty of stores to handle this situation. Plus the donations that are given to churches, food pantry and Red Cross if it's needed. These are worthwhile helplines for people. At this point it is generosity from city people rather than spending big dollars. I will personally give to a place that gives help to people with clothes, food and Red Cross that will truly help these families. The $1,000,000 could be used for much better projects. I think you can understand where we are coming from with this end of the whole thing. Habitat for Humanity - another worthwhile project to help families out. Let's put our energies and support for these things.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.26

    Dan, knock off the distraction. Tell me why the criticism of the thrift store plan is wrong.

  15. Gayle 2012.06.26

    The proof is in the everyday conversations I have with the locals. I have found that 100% are against it! I sit back and people come to me with their opinions. I have found that the older residents are the most upset because they never got a handout! Take a walk down the street, go for coffee, stop by any local business and you will hear negative feedback concerning how our tax money is being spent. We need to fill up the empty buildings on main street first! What's going to attract people to Madison to spend money? Entertainment, maybe a movie theater, yes a grocery store but we need to get back to main street! A movie theater would bring people to our shops, restraurants and bars. A nice walk down main street before the movie starts. Look at the BIG picture! We need people with money to come to our town to keep it growing!

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.26

    Grandma and Gayle are rock solid on this issue. Look at the big picture, make a community project a real community project by involving the entire community in an open conversation about real community needs and wants. A combination of good politics and market research are essential for any community project to work. The thrift store committee has failed to forge that combination.

  17. Daniel 2012.06.26

    I'd give you my input on the situation if you would quit removing my posts and treating me the way you do b/c I am not apart of "elite" of this blog. I have no problem with the criticism of the thrift store plan. I do have a problem with you making it personal and criticizing members of this community who are just trying to do something good. Their intent is not as malicious as you try to make it out to be. I also have a problem with you claiming that your polls are representative of the community. You don't represent me or many other people I have spoken to. Stay classy Cory and Larry. I now know what the standards are around here and I want no part of it.

  18. John Hess 2012.06.26

    The thrift store just isn't a sensible priority for Madison. Really just as simple as that, but "they" don't seem to listen (over and over) so people draw conclusions.

    I really do wonder how much all communities are like this, or to what degree it varies, which is one reason I so appreciate different perspectives, such as what Paula shared. I have a tendency to glorify Brookings, but maybe they're no different.

    My brother in law shared a story about Sioux City and their city fathers who were city commissioners and ran businesses downtown. They didn't want to expand malls as Sioux Falls choose to do (way back when) which really stunted growth of the city, so I tend to think the decisions these guys make really are critical, possibly even more so in a small town with limited resources.

    If Dan works for the mob that would explain why he didn't want to use his last name.

  19. PrairieLady 2012.06.26

    WOW that was interesting. Guess he took his marbles and went home.

  20. John Hess 2012.06.26

    Cory's polls are not representative of the community because of his readership and too small of sample, but that doesn't mean they have no value. They are at least the start of a conversation.

    Honestly Dan your posts are cutting, mean, and childish. I've read them before. Everyone enjoys disagreeing with Cory now and then (or all the time for some), but you make everything personal.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.26

    As usual, Dan just comes here to distract people from the real issue. Dan and I can call each other all the names we want (and Larry can join in), and it won't change the fact that the community thrift store is an ill-conceived, poorly evaluated, riskier than necessary investment of public dollars.

  22. Chris Francis 2012.06.26

    The sensible approach would be to scrap this project tomorrow, its just a bad idea made worse with the lack of public dialogue, so let's start with fresh perspectives, involve and invite the community to participate in what our downtown could be, look like, and feel like too (we've discussed those formats and processes many times before on this fine blog)

    And to note, I have yet to meet anyone in favor of the project, that's a really bad sign for any investment...

  23. Douglas Wiken 2012.06.26

    Thrift stores can be a useful community service, but spending $150,000 on one seems a strange use of public funds. I would guess most often these stores in most communities are run by charities not running on public funds.

    If Dan wants to come to Winner, SD, I will show him the abandoned school with the new carpet. It now has 2 rooms of the 20 or so in the building used by a regional SD Extension office. That required additional conversion expense. I was at the school board meeting when the building project was approved. One board member was in the family that owned a concrete plant. He jumped up and practically yelled hip,hip, hooray..and then dropped off the school board in a few weeks.

    Some projects are good and warrant public aid, but some called for in the name of progress or even more aggravating in the name of the abstract child, are public benefit projects for connected businesses already rich enough to influence public decisions.

  24. Mary D 2012.06.26

    Maybe they should think of starting a new car dealership with tax money...wonder what Prostrollos would think of that. That flea market has brought me to Madison many times. It is one of the best in the state. Mitchell, Huron, Aberdeen, Redfield, Brookings, etc.,, don't have a flea market. Madison does. Too bad advertising is so expensive so they could advertise state wide.

    If a private person wants to set up another flea market, fine. Maybe Madison could become a town like Canton with the antique stores. But for the city to do it....what in the world are they thinking. I can't even believe they brought it up.

  25. Dave 2012.06.27

    I don't live in Madison, so i don't have a dog in this fight, but I would imagine that if city leaders don't listen to reason and decide to not scrap this plan, the citizens of the community would have the right to refer the expenditure of tax dollars to a public vote. That would be one poll that would indeed matter.

  26. Joseph G Thompson 2012.06.27

    I don't understand all the anger directed against Cory's so called "elite" of Madison. This supposedly elite class of people are doing nothing illegal, immoral, or unsavory. They are merely doing what all good business people should do, trying to find a way to spread risk.

    The immoral and unsavory action would be taken by the Lake County Commission and the Madison City Commission if they agreed to provide the taxpayer's money.

    Direct your anger where it belongs, towards the two commissions, (if they approve the money) but not against people who in their own way are trying to make Madison a better place to live.

    Joseph G Thompson

  27. John Hess 2012.06.27

    Joe, that's a funny statement. It's ok to request a handout, but it's unsavory for it to be approved. If the transaction is unsavory, then it should be unsavory to ask too, shouldn't it?

    But as Dave mentions, if they approve this, the voters will likely decide, and we'll get to see if the polling was accurate. Not hoping for that, but it would be interesting.

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.27

    I agree with your assessment there, John. I don't give the thrift store committee members a pass for trying when they clearly haven't done a hard evaluation of the community's needs or produced a reliable business plan to make the sale to us investors.

    And while I love a good election, I'd rather the commissions just show some good sense and shoot this plan down without our having to circulate petitions.

  29. Steve Sanchez 2012.06.27

    I'm with Joe on this one. There is plenty of criticism to go 'round the table here. As Daniel pointed out, the city commissioners aren't being "strong-armed" into handing taxpayer dollars to non-profit and private entities in the area. On the contrary, they're practically bending over backwards to give money away.

    In the case of the Community Thrift Store, not one cent will be seen as a positive return on the City of Madison's investment until the needy people of this community have spent at least $7.5 million on affordable, donated goods in a new 18,000 sq. ft. building owned by the Madison Community Foundation. Keep in mind, that figure relates only to city sales tax receipts. It does not reflect any loss of property taxes currently collected or potential for lost consignments (i.e., higher sales prices) at similar (but, not the same!) businesses already operating in town. Let's just hope the good stewards of taxpayer money have already done the math.

    If it's only about charity, why choose the MCF to receive such a generous donation? There must be a dozen non-profits established in the area whose mission is to do something more "charitable" than to provide free/discounted Madison Community Center memberships (where do we sign up - by the way?) and cover property expenses for a popular business on Main Street.

  30. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.27

    ...or better yet, Steve, how about we cede the property to county ownership and run it in a publicly accountable fashion? That would be a true community thrift store, owned and operated by the community.

  31. mhs 2012.06.27

    A few years ago in a somewhat larger community than Madison, I financed a new community health clinic. The facility was co-owned by two major non-profit hospitals, provided clinic space for 13 full time physicians and another 80 professional staff with a payroll north of $20mm and provided care to thousands of low income residents annually.

    The Cost? $7million. Compare that to the economic impact and cost of the thrift store.

  32. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.27

    A new community health clinic... does Madison have demand for such a facility? Do local low-income residents lack access to such care? Would Madison see a similar boost in payroll and professionals living here?

  33. Joe 2012.06.27

    I'm not opposed to community owned businesses but I think they have to serve a need. Such as if a community doesn't have a store and you think one is needed.

    As far as spending money to tear down a building, I do support that, I'm not sure of the building because its been years since I've been to Madison, but most main streets in these small towns have old, run down, poorly built buildings that few businesses would even look at.

    Tear down the building, either sell the lot to a business that will help your community, or build something and then sell that.

  34. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.28

    "community-owned": that's an important term here. The thrift store would be built with public money, but the community wouldn't own it. It would belong to the Madison Community Foundation, a private non-profit with no public accountability.

    Joe reminds me of Adam Smith here. Government has a proper role in meeting needs that the private sector cannot or will not. No one has shown that this thrift store would meet needs for secondhand goods that aren't already being met by private businesses, rummage sales, and online resources facilitating individual exchange. And no one has shown that the charitable needs the store would meet aren't better met by other means.

  35. Linda McIntyre 2012.06.28

    Wasn't the whole point of the thrift store to generate money to lessen the amount that the county and city spend to meet the social welfare needs of the county? And the big question is why the need to spend over a million dollars to accomplish this. It isn't because the community needs the thrift store itself; it doesn't. If the steering committee had wanted to simply accompish this, they could have done it by using an existing building with little money input up front to see if the idea worked or not. So...what is the real reason for needing a brand new building at over a million dollars of input costs?? Nobody has answered that. What was the reason given to those of you posters who have met with a steering committee member?

  36. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.28

    Linda, I'm not sure the city has a "welfare" line in its budget. I think direct indigent aid is a unique function of the county, though I welcome correction from more knowledgeable local budget wonks.

    But yes, generating funds to assist the poor is the main selling point. However, the thrift store dollars are more likely to replace the Community Service Block Grant dollars that conservatives in Washington are cutting than the local tax dollars appropriated for indigent assistance by the county.

    I'd love to hear the justifications others have heard for the million-dollar building.

  37. Michael Black 2012.06.28

    There is NOTHING wrong about proposing ideas for almost anything. Think about the bold plans that have made great impact in Madison. If Janklow had not converted DSU to a computer school, it would surely be closed years ago. We have one of the best facilities around in the Community Center. We have new school buildings and a remodel in progress.

  38. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.28

    Michael, let's not confuse brainstorming with policymaking. It's one thing to get together with friends and jog brains with wild ideas. It's another to work up a real plan without public input and take it to local government asking for hundreds of thousands of public dollars.

  39. Chris 2012.06.28

    We have facilities we can not afford, like the community center, however amazing some continue to claim, it doesn't meet our community's basic needs for daily access and usability, it was built too great and grand, and now, we have a (non-recognized) non-profit offering charity to allow residents reduced prices on memberships to the facility.

    The same could be said about the new spectator gymnasium, ie school improvement project, as the community can't actually afford it, so we'll drive ourselves further in debt to build what we think would amaze our friends and make us seem bigger and more impressive to our guests. It has little to do with education, basic needs and the welfare of our children, but everything with ego, self-centered greed, and an emphasis on competition with neighboring communities. End of the day, our students have lots of bricks, but little in the form of a solid and robust academic approach, we short-changed the underlying backbone of a strong and solid public education, in the quest for hardwood and bleachers, scoreboards and locker-rooms, we failed to replace the very faculty that developed some of the most accomplished, cultured, and self-aware classes this community created, we failed to grow, cherish, and recognized our successful academic programs, and that speaks greater volumes on the true worth of our community.

    I'd contend that buildings do not make communities better, or stronger, or more impressive, rather, moral values, self-awareness, continued open dialogue, and actual concern and respect for one another in not only in a local sense, but true global appreciation, are a true measure of community, and those communities that realize, and practice that approach, will continue to grow and prosper in the coming years ahead.

  40. Douglas Wiken 2012.06.28

    Chris's message should be posted on every school house door in South Dakota.

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