Although the closing of stores in a small town area like Bloomsburg isn’t out of the ordinary, it seems that it has become almost an expectation for the past five years. Family owned businesses can no longer afford to operate when costumers are struggling themselves to make money. A perfect example is the Columbia Mall, located in Buckhorn, Pa. It opened with such chain retailers as JCPenny, Sears, Ames and Bon-Ton along with other, more obscure stores like the Bloomsburg Boulevard, and Friar Tuck. Later on, McDonald’s, Auntie Anne’s, Gap, and an Arby’s.
Though the Columbia was widely popular a decade ago, recently is hasn’t been the go-to place for Christmas or back-to-school shopping.
“The sad thing is the mall could be great and was years ago,” commented Chris from the online blog, Dead Malls. “The anchor stores are still there…but the selection of clothes is bad.”
Though the anchors still remain, almost all family-owned stores have now closed. The closing of Auntie Ann’s Pretzel’s two years ago caught many local’s eyes as it had been one of the most popular food stores there for about 15 years. However, on June 16this year, Anne’s was replaced by a family own pretzel store called “Totally Twisted” and is the only food store in the mall. According to Mike Haspe, one of the three founders of the business, he has faith that the mall will eventually be as popular as it was in the 80’s.
“[We] enjoy being a part of the Columbia Mall. We decided to bring our concept here because we see potential in the mall, and believe in the future it will turn around for the better…We won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.”
For the past 5 years, many would agree that the Columbia Mall has gone “down-hill.” On Yelp.com, a website for reviews for businesses, “Nick M.” described the mall as a “living dead mall.”
“I grew up in this area,” he commented, “and wandering around this ghost of a shopping establishment must feel something like how it felt to visit Dresden after the fire-bombing in WWII.”
Almost all would agree that The Columbia Mall and other family owned businesses in small towns can only survive if the economy gets back on track.
“Before President Obama took office, the economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. Now, we’ve seen 30 consecutive months of job growth and 4.6 million new private sector jobs,” says the Presidents website. This is because of his $75 billion dollar stimulus plan he enacted at the beginning of his term.
Mitt Romney’s plan is greatly focused on the middle class and small businesses struggling to survive.
“My plan is to help the middle class,” Romney says in his most recent ad, designed to explain to voters understand his plan, “champion small business. Have tax policies, regulations, and healthcare policies that help small business. We put those in place; we’ll add 12 million new jobs in four years.”
Bloomsburg University students are worried that if the economy doesn’t improve soon, college will become even more of a struggle. According to a USA Today poll, 60 percent of college students have to take out loans because their parents don’t have the money for college tuition.
Dylan Farr, a freshman marketing major said, “My dad owns his own business. But with the economy like this, I get worried people in this small area won’t be able to afford his stuff and he pays all the bills for me.”