Things aren’t exactly great for brick and mortar businesses. Big name brands and some smaller ones are closing up shop due to what’s called the “Amazon Effect” or in more general terms, online shopping. When Shopko executives filed for bankruptcy last month they cited the current “retail environment and competitive pressures” for their problems. This month, they announced a second, larger-than-expected round of store closings that included Imlay City, the area’s only general merchandise store.

Readers had pretty strong opinions about the news when we posted the story to Tri-City Times’ Facebook page. Some expressed dismay at the news, other had theories as to why the business model failed and plenty had suggestions as to what chain store they’d like to see fill the building come May.

The retail climate in communities like ours has had its ups and downs, both before and after the Great Recession. Imlay City’s not quite big enough to support the big retailers who, some time ago, chose to build in places like Lapeer and Port Huron. Service providers and niche retailers have made a go of it and it’s great to see small, locally-owned ventures supported by their friends and neighbors. In recent years, places like Capac and Almont were fortunate to see grocery stores re-open in their communities—the most basic and necessary kind of retail. Dollar stores have a growing presence in the region but their offerings are limited.

Once again, the community and our leaders are tasked with finding the right balance between maintaining that small town charm while attracting the right businesses that can sell basic necessities and foster a strong “shop local” mentality. Today, the popularity of e-commerce complicates things even more.

Hopefully, leaders and organizations can help businesses, entrepreneurs and citizens work through the challenges and opportunities posed in the current retail climate and keep the Tri-City area a great place to live, work and shop.