By Associated Press - Sunday, February 14, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Lake Superior community of Grand Marais has put the brakes on a potential move by a national discount retailer Dollar General to move into the scenic tourist town.

An online petition gathered more than 1,500 signatures and dozens of residents concerned about preserving the town’s rustic image and locally owned shops, galleries and restaurants crowded into government meetings earlier this month as reports circulated that Dollar General was looking at land along Highway 61, the main route that tourists take into town.

A store there would send a message that “Grand Marais is just like every other small town in the United States. It’s not unique. It’s not different. It’s not eclectic. It’s not independent,” the petition said, adding that it would set a precedent of “First Dollar General, then McDonald’s . then the floodgates are open.”

The city council last week put a temporary moratorium on commercial developments larger than 5,000 square feet in that area. Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis (https://strib.mn/1XrLIVn ) that the move gives the city of about 1,350 residents up to a year to study the issue.

“The big concern is that we want to be able to direct development in a way that would best serve our community and best protect the businesses that are already here, as well as encouraging new businesses that would enhance our economy,” he said. “We know that a lot of people have really strong feelings about Grand Marais, and we do, too.”



Lisa Gergets, who started the petition, said people aren’t against Dollar General specifically, but against the concept it represents. They worry about local stores dying, she said, while national chains take profits out of the community, about 100 miles northeast of Duluth. They also worry about changing the vibe for tourists, some of whom signed the petition, too.

Dollar General spokeswoman Crystal Ghassemi said in emailed statements that the company is “respectful of community concerns and thoughtful in store design in order to be consistent with the charm and character of the towns we serve. We look forward to working with both the community and city on this project.”

Proponents of the store argued that low-income residents need access to low-cost items. More than 140 signed a “Yes to Dollar General” petition online.

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Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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