Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Thrift Store Town
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Thrift Store Town

Patrick Sullivan - January 2nd, 2012  


Dollar store becomes a general store and more

Charlie Tinon, a worker at the dollar store, behind the counter.

The Bargains Galore Dollar Store on Cedar Street in Kalkaska.

Jim Hagler runs the Bargains Galore Dollar Store in Kalkaska with his wife, Kathern.

At the Bargains Galore Dollar Store on Cedar Street in Kalkaska, the family that runs the place realized a couple of years ago they needed to do more than offer an array of items for $1.

Jim and Kathern Hagler decided to broaden their business by becoming something like an old fashioned general store combined with a used goods store that pays for items to help some customers who have cash flow problems.

The Haglers had previously operated restaurants in that location and for a decade they’d run an office supply store in Kalkaska. In 2003 they decided to do something different and they opened a store, located across the street from Kalkaska’s famous trout, that has since then it has grown into the sort of place that sells almost everything.

“It was an empty building,” Kathern said.

“We had to do something with it.”

Certainly, you can still find things that cost just a dollar, but they’ve expanded their inventory and now offer some groceries, hardware and an assortment of used items at a variety of prices.

They run the business to survive and to fund their church down the block, the Family of God Christian Fellowship.

“He don’t preach to be paid,” Kathern said of her husband.

As the store evolved, the Haglers looked for other ways to make money. They added special occasion balloons. To appeal to tourists, they introduced homemade fudge.

Then, in 2007 and 2008, the economy got really bad and the Haglers noticed that people were struggling.

Jobs were lost. Wallets emptied. They decided to pay cash for some items and resell them and to take other items on consignment.

“People, they needed gas money,” Kathern said.


Jim Hagler said they started the used goods business to help people out.

“We started that because of the economy,” he said. “We know that people have items, and maybe they need to turn them into money ... they’re out of jobs, there’s not a lot of work, that’s just it right there in a nutshell. There’s just not a lot of work for people.”

He said through his business and his ministry he sees first-hand the poverty in town.

“People who don’t have any money just don’t have any money, there’s a big gap between the haves and the have-nots,” he said. “We decided, you know, what people have a lot of is items that they have at home, and they can bring them here.”

Customer Krista Nichols of Kalkaska said the Haglers help in another way, too. They offer a diverse enough selection of items she can shop in downtown Kalkaska sometimes rather than use gasoline to drive to a grocery store.

“There are people who come here to buy staples so they don’t have to go all the way to Traverse City,” Nichols said. “They are a benefit to the community.”

Business is tough, though. Jim said.

They have to pay $500 a month in property taxes, which they can hardly manage given the kind of business they have.

“When it comes to independent business, they need the ability to change without having to go back and get permission every time they turn around,” he said. “Independents, they are experimental, they aren’t stamped out businesses. ... You’re always evolving, trying to figure out what’s going to really click.”


Down the street, a mainstay of local charity, KAIR, or Kalkaska Area Interfaith Resources, is reeling from a recent embezzlement case.

Its former director is accused of stealing from the charity.

The blow to the agency -- to its finances and to its reputation -- couldn’t have come at a worse time, said Ron Gay, acting director.

“In the last couple of years, things have gotten a lot worse,” Gay said about the amount of poverty in the area.

Gay took over in August, after the embezzlement came to light.

“As soon as we found out, in twelve hours she was gone and the sheriff was called,” Gay said.

The former director was charged with embezzlement between $1,000 and $20,000, a felony that carries up to 10 years in prison. She was accused of taking over $20,000 between 2009 and 2011.

Despite that, area residents have continued to support KAIR.

“We’ve had a real outpouring from people in the community,” Gay said.

For instance, when word got out that KAIR wasn’t going to be able to include ham in the Christmas boxes set to go out to needy families this year, a call went out, organizations mobilized and checks were written.

Soon, KAIR could afford the 250 hams it needed.


Gay and another KAIR official, Brenda Vowels, the KAIR food pantry director, have no shortage of stories that describe what some people are going through recently.

There is the family who came in for help last winter who were living on state land in a tent, Gay said. He helped them get into housing and that family has since moved out of the area.

Vowels said just recently a young man, probably in his early 20s, came to her saying he needed some food. She assumed he needed to sign up for food aid but that wasn’t the case -- he needed food right away. Hunger had brought him to the KAIR storefront after he hadn’t eaten in a couple of days.

In another recent case, Vowels said she noticed several families applying for aid and they all listed the same address. She looked into it and discovered several families were indeed living at one address -- some of them in the house, some in a tent and others in a camper.

She said it’s not uncommon lately for families to move in together and share a house to get by.

In another case, a man came in earlier this year wanting help with a $4,500 electric bill. Last winter, he ran out of propane and

couldn’t afford a refill, so he heated his house with electric space heaters. The man is in his late 30s, he’s got a wife and three children, he has cancer, and he needs to keep his house warm, Gay said.

Gay said he was able to get the utility company to knock a little off of the bill, but he couldn’t help much. He doesn’t know what the man will do this winter.

“A guy came in today and said, ‘I put my last little pile of wood pellets in the stove last night and I think he had four kids,” Gay said.

Sometimes around Kalkaska it seems like a Third World country, Vowels said.

“It’s been an eye opener, working in the food pantry,” she said.

Gay agreed: “It shouldn’t be in America, you know? And I tell you, it’s only going to get worse as the winter goes along.”


J.D. Snyder, project director at the MSU Center for Community and Economic Development, said it is not surprising that an economically distressed community would turn to second-hand trading of goods and services so that people could get by.

“That really does amount to your most primitive level of economic activity,” Snyder said. “The flip-side of that is to recognize that necessity is the mother of invention.”

Tough times will be the toughest for the most vulnerable, as has happened to some in Kalkaska or other pockets of economic depression around Northern Michigan.

“I would state that the good news there is that people are finding a way to obtain what they need,” Snyder said. “People are being sufficiently creative to find ways to satisfy their needs.”

Snyder said such adaption shows that people have the ability to find ways to get themselves out of the economic doldrums.

“It seems highly plausible, in my mind, that they can come together and say, ‘How do we get to the next step?’” In the meantime, Snyder said that Michigan’s severe winters should prompt everyone to watch out for the needs of extremely poor people, especially the elderly, who might not be able to make it to a shelter if their heat goes out.

Every time there is a severe winter there are news stories about people whose heat was shut off because they could not pay their bills and they’ve been found frozen to death, he said.

Ron Gay, acting director of the Kalkaska Area Interfaith Resources charity, and Brenda Vowels, KAIR food director.

The Kalkaska Area Interfaith Resources food pantry.

“All we can do is really hope that our local agencies are doing as much as possible to help to avoid these situations,” he said. “As a community, as a society, I think we need to be extremely aware of people’s needs, and if we’re in a position to help, we should do so.”


Kalkaska has recently recognized the town needs to redouble its efforts to pull itself out of the bad economy.

The Kalkaska Downtown Development Authority has launched programs to improve way-finding throughout the village so that travelers through town will better know what businesses are there for them.

And there are plenty of traditional businesses around Kalkaska, from restaurants and bars, to a card and gift shop, salons, and a hardware store.

At a DDA meeting in January, a consultant will present the findings of a marketing and economic strategy study to determine “what kind of stores should be in what location,” said Penny Hill, DDA manager.

They’ve also organized a rebranding effort for the village and recently conducted a contest to come up with a new slogan and logo.

Kalkaska might be best known for the landmark trout statue on Cedar Street.

“We’re trying to say we’re so much more than just the trout, and that was the whole impetus of the rebranding,” Hill said.

Nonetheless, the winning logo in the contest features an image of the trout and the slogan, “Feels like home.” The winning slogan, which was a separate part of the contest, was “Discover the possibilities.”

The contest was an effort to determine people’s perception of Kalkaska and the logo and slogan may not be part of the DDA campaign, Hill said.

And how will all of the second-hand stores fit in to Kalkaska’s future?

Hill said that perhaps in better times, when there aren’t so many impoverished people around, those kind of stores will evolve into antique stores or something else.

“I think the report will show that they are needed, but they shouldn’t be predominant in our downtown,” Hill said. “I think the store owners themselves would say that they would be quite happy to evolve into something beyond a second-hand store.”

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