Lila Mehlhaff said a convergence of factors led to her decision to close her downtown business, Mainstream Boutique.
“I feel like it was a perfect storm when I tell people what it was that made our decision to close,” said Mehlhaff. “There were a lot of different reasons.”
The closure makes four women’s apparel and accessories stores to announce their closures recently in downtown Rapid City.
Mainstream Boutique, at 613 Main, joins Serendipity Street Boutique and Untamed Accessories and Clothing, just a few doors away at 619 Main and 617 Main, respectively, and S & Co. Boutique at 910 Main as already closed or closing soon.
Topping the list, Mehlhaff said, was a surge in online shopping, up 18.8 percent last year.
“The last couple of years have been really defining for a lot of businesses," she said. “I visited with other retail owners that closed and they said their best year was probably 2017 and after that it just seemed like it went downhill quite quickly.”
She also cited a downturn in traffic from a prolonged winter through the first four months of 2019, and road construction along Main Street during the prime months of summer and fall.
She also mentioned last year’s installation of downtown parking meters.
While the meters have opened up spaces downtown, she said many shoppers have been turned away by having to pay for parking.
“People are still angry about the meters. They just don’t want to have to pay it,” she said.
Mehlhaff said a change in social media policies regarding business advertising and the expense of a mandated switch of her point-of-sale system by her parent company, Minnesota-based Mainstream Boutique, also fed the decision to close.
She said she asked and received extensions in purchasing the new system, which would have allowed the company access to sales and vendor data.
“But when it came down to it, it just seemed everything was pointing in the same direction,” she said.
Mehlhaff closed Mainstream Boutique on Feb. 1 and completed final cleanup of the space this week.
Moving forward she will finish a Master’s of Science in Strategic Leadership through BHSU next semester and hopes to become involved with small business and Native American youth.
“I still love the downtown area. I kind of like the vibe here,” she said.
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She reiterated the view of other small independent retailers in urging shoppers to support their local businesses.
“When people shop online, that money is going out of our community and our state,” she said.
Fleet Farm opening pushed back
Passersby on Interstate 90 just east of the Lacrosse Street exit can’t miss the bright orange building accents on what will be Fleet Farm’s expansive 190,000-square-foot store.
The building looks to be essentially complete, save for signage and ongoing construction of a separate structure on the west end of the parking lot.
However, the Rapid City Fleet Farm is now slated to open this fall, not this spring as previously announced.
According to Fleet Farm Chief Marketing Officer Terry Brophey, the shift in opening is "a slight adjustment that is based on our experience and learnings about the optimal time of year for Fleet Farm to open a store."
"Our other store opening this year is in Waukee, Iowa, and it will also open this fall," Brophey said.
According to the Fleet Farm website, the new store will employ more than 200 team members. Hiring for store leadership positions has already begun, Brophey said, with other positions set to begin hiring mid-summer.
Among those hired will be sales floor, cashier teams and employees for an automotive work center.
The stores offer apparel, footwear and accessories for women, men and children, a line of pet care products, a selection of pantry items, snacks, toys, sporting goods, hardware, and items for home and farm.
Along with automotive services, there will also be a fuel station and convenience store.
Appleton, Wisconsin-based Fleet Farm operates 45 stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Fleet Farm opened five new stores in 2018. Last year stores in Sioux Falls, Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and West Bend, Wisc., joined the roster.
Overclock eSports Lounge closed
The Overclock eSports Lounge at 4095 Sturgis Road went up for online auction as a turn-key business on Saturday.
Husband and wife Mark and Maggie Cuneo opened the eSports and video game-themed lounge in August, but they announced the closing on their Facebook page on Dec. 18, citing unspecified “health conflicts,” amid an attempt to find new management for the business.