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The power of community saves a store
In the first few days of April, an ugly rumor surfaced in Pioneer and other upcountry Amador communities that North Carolina’s Family Dollar Stores was going to buy the Buckhorn Payless IGA grocery store and set up shop. At the April 8 Upcountry Community Council meeting, Chairwoman Lynn Morgan announced the rumor was true.

That announcement galvanized the community to action. For upcountry residents, losing Payless Grocery meant losing convenient access to fresh produce, dairy products, and meat. Grocery shopping would require an 18-mile drive for fresh, healthy food. This “simple” errand isn’t possible for upcountry residents, particularly seniors, who don’t own cars or aren’t able to drive. The trip would be inconvenient and costly for other Payless shoppers.

That night Lynn formed a task group, Save Our Upcountry Payless (SOUP), and the whir of activity began. Within days, the group printed and distributed petitions opposing the sale to both individuals and businesses. Merchants from Buckhorn to Jackson set petitions by their registers for people to sign. Volunteers staffed a petition table at the Payless store. While at the petition table, Lynn watched an elderly women walking slowly down a hill and across the street to the store. While signing the petition, this woman said “I don’t know what I’ll do if we lose this store.”

In three weeks, SOUP collected 2,400 signatures and mailed the petitions to Howard Levine, chairman of the board and CEO of Family Dollar Stores. Meanwhile, work continued to gather signatures for a second batch of petitions (the final count of signatures totaled more than 4,000). Lynn appeared on the local TSPN-TV “Open Mike” program to educate more people about the importance of Payless Grocery to the upcountry community. While the Amador County Board of Supervisors stayed silent on the issue, Foothill Conservancy sent a letter to Mr. Levine opposing the proposed sale and supporting the need for upcountry residents to have access to fresh food.

On May 30, while preparing for a community solidarity photo of upcountry residents in front of the Payless, Lynn heard the good news—the sale was off! The next day, the Sacramento Bee featured the success story on the front page of its Region section.

Lynn’s thank-you email to the community proves caring individuals and community solidarity can successfully stop actions that threaten community assets and values, even against a major corporation. “The owner of the store said that the sale being called off absolutely would not have happened without the show of support for the store from the community,” Lynn wrote.

Congratulations to SOUP and all upcountry Amador residents for a job well done!

THE FOOTHILL CONSERVANCY  |  PO Box 1255, Pine Grove CA 95665 | 209.295.4900

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