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Tyndall nearing grocery store deal

CashSmart stores owner RF Buche speaks in November during a community meeting concerning the stores in Scotland. (Caitlynn Peetz / Republic)

TYNDALL — With three weeks left before the town's grocery store is scheduled to close, Tyndall city officials are scrambling to find a way to keep the business' doors open.

If a solution isn't reached and a new owner isn't found, the town will lose approximately $20,000 in sales tax revenues per year, limiting local government agencies' ability to support local projects.

The same is true in Tripp, where the CashSmart store's closure is expected to cut approximately $18,000 in sales tax revenue annually.

The Tripp and Tyndall stores' closures were announced in late December after several months of operating at a loss, according to CashSmart owner RF Buche.

Buche went public with the stores' struggles in September, desperate for a solution to insufficient spending from shoppers in Tripp, Tyndall and Scotland. He told citizens that sales needed to increase by 50 percent at each store by the end of 2017, a feat that proved too difficult.

"That's the part nobody's really talking about — I don't think the general customer thinks about it or cares or understands there's a community benefit to having these stores open and spending dollars locally," Buche said in an interview in early January. "I think Scotland told me we were 14 to 18 percent of their total budget and I thought, 'Geez, where in these other towns is that going to come from?' "

But Tyndall officials are nearing a final plan to keep the grocery store's doors open.

Some residents created Tyndall Market, LLC., a group that is in negotiations to purchase the store. Each member of the group would purchase "shares" in the store and have joint ownership, according to Tyndall Economic Development Board President Ron Wagner.

The method would eliminate the need for one individual to invest a large amount of money in the store, instead splitting the "high risk, low reward" endeavor among several people, Wagner said.

Additionally, the city of Tyndall will provide the future store owners with free utilities for six months — approximately $1,600 per month. Wagner said the Tyndall Economic Development Board intends to offer some kind of incentives, as well, such as helping sponsor promotions.

"We're still in negotiations, but we've gone through plans A, B and C and we're on plan D," Wagner said. "If this doesn't work out, we'll find something else. We're working very hard."

Regardless, Wagner said he expects the store to be closed for about six weeks while details are ironed out.

When the impending closure was announced, Tripp Economic Development Board President Al Hale said Tripp is also working to find owners of the local store, as it would be a "major impact" if the store closed. He could not be reached for comment for this story.

The Scotland CashSmart is expected to remain open as "confidential conversations" continue about the location, according to Buche.