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Downtown business calling it quits

The windows of her store gave Sue Vidlak a prime view of the key downtown intersection where Fifth and E streets meet.

She couldn’t count all the near collisions of those westbound drivers taking the right hand turn too fast, unable to see the vehicles backing out on Fifth Street and into their path. She’s seen pedestrians tumble on icy sidewalks across the street, and the inevitable crunch of an eastbound car’s front end in the drainage dip across D Street.

“It’s a very eventful corner,” Vidlak said.

Now she’s trading that view for retirement and more time in Abie where she and her husband Lenny live. Now the couple can do a little traveling with the camper they bought a couple years ago. They’re ready to spend some time spoiling their three granddaughters before the girls grow up.

Vidlak leaves behind 15 years of providing  discounted items and seasonal decorations and gifts. The store had another eight years with previous owner Mike McClintic.

Vidlak said that back in February she made the tough decision to close the business. Sue’s was the place to find many things for the price of a dollar, plus those seasonal decorations for the holidays. Dozens of local students made her store the candy stop on the way home from school.

“I will sure miss the people,” she said. One of the main people she’ll miss is her part time worker, Jane McElravy, who has been with her all along. Having Jane as an employee allowed Vidlak to do some traveling and get away from the 6-day-a-week commitment.

“She let me go to California too,” Jane said. “I had to promise to come back.”

McElravy’s work in downtown stores dates back to the gambles store owned by Bill and Marilyn Ortmeier.

“Any time I was working in a store it closed,” McElravy joked. “And now this one is closing.”

But at 80 years old, McElravy said, it’s time to retire. She will miss working with Vidlak. “We worked well together,” she said.

Said Vidklak: “If I need her, she’s there.”

With the merchandise slashed to 60 percent off, Sue’s inventory is dwindling. Because of that, the store’s closing date was moving up to either Friday or Saturday.

After a few weeks of preparation, Vidlak plans to have a garage sale and also sell store furnishings that aren’t going to be included in the sale of the building. She said the location has great retail potential, and with some work, all eight of the upstairs apartments would help the building’s revenue stream.

The impact of the Internet and the willingness of shoppers to head out of town hastened Vidlak’s decision.

In the mid 2000s small town merchants worried about the impact of Walmart and big box stores. Now online shopping creates a real challenge. Ordering products online and having them delivered to your door is too hard for shoppers to resist, Vidlak said.

The store became a place to meet a wide variety of people, Vidlak said, and some of her shoppers were looking for a sympathetic ear.

“I sometimes say that I need a couch and a bottle of wine,” for some discussions, she said.

Customers enjoyed coming in for low-cost greeting cards, and when they moved into assisted living or a nursing home, they missed their favorite store.

“They call and I bring them the cards they want,” Vidlak said. “You can’t go wrong with 50 cent greeting cards.”

Vidlak has grown accustomed to how people shop and their habits and quirks.

“People come in at Christmas time and ask why we don’t have the Valentine’s Day stuff out yet,” she said.

With the start of the school year rapidly approaching, Vidlak said it was odd to not be stocking up on school supplies to help families get ready.

Store history

The store was the successor to McClintic’s V and S Variety Store that once was located about a block west on E Street. The variety store became Just a Buck in 1994 when it moved to 502 N. Fifth Street. Its network of stores once extended to locations in Schuyler, Columbus, O’Neil, Central City and Norfolk. Vidlak purchased the David City store from McClintic in 2002.

Vidlak said some people speculated that the growth of other dollar store chains like Family Dollar and Dollar Tree were too much for many former variety stores to overcome.

Vidlak also is working to sell the building, which was built in 1905 and has had a number of uses. It was home to Kaiser Frazer car dealership, a Hinky Dinky grocery store, Montag’s Carpet, and Rasmussen Sports Shop. The former stairs along E Street led to basement businesses, including a shoe shop.

Over the past few years, the leadup to the Downtown Improvement Project led to discussion of the tunnels and the challenges they might pose to construction crews. In April 2015, Vidlak gave project designers a tour of the walkways below the sidewalks. They also saw the coal bins where coal was once unloaded through the sidewalk so businesses could move it to the furnace in the stores’ basements.

Construction crews move to new sites

Drivers coming through David City will notice that the areas occupied by heavy equipment have changed.

Crews with Constructors Inc. and Vankirk Bros. moved north on Fourth Street past C Street last week. Vankirk crews also began the process of boring water mains along Fifth Street. The boring of the water mains is scheduled to continue through the winter months, with most of the downtown street construction occurring in 2018.

Drivers heading south past the courthouse found new barricades at the corner of Fourth and D streets. Crews also set up traffic cones next to Runza and First National Bank so customers could still use the drive through lanes for business.

At the City Council’s meeting July 26, Al Hottovy of Leo A Daly gave an update of the construction, and the city began making its first payments toward the Nebraska 15 portion of the project.

Change orders of more than $50,000 were approved for moving water mains under the new storm sewer that runs along the highway. Hottovy said that the city and the design firm would need to improve the ongoing communications about the project. The cost of moving the water mains was not greater because change orders were required, Hottovy said.

The rebuilding of Nebraska 15 saw significant progress as crews installed concrete in the highway’s three lanes extending two blocks north of Iowa Street. According to earlier announcements, the detour around the highway construction will be relocated as the segments are completed from the south.

While the hot days of July were tough on workers, the dry conditions also enabled crews to make steady progress, Hottovy said in Leo A Daly's recent newsletter.

Just under two months since starting the Nebraska 15 (Fourth Street) project, Constructors Inc. crews poured the center lane of concrete that reaches two blocks north of Iowa Street. Street corners and driveway entrances still remain to be completed. 

Nathan Heuer, The Columbus Telegram 

David City pitcher Joe Lance (26) attempts to pick off a Wilber base runner with a throw to first baseman Tyler Vavrina (4) during Monday's Class C state Legion tournament game at Kernel Field in Central City.