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Milltown Mini Mart loses unfair fight


Just a thought


January 11, 2012
Many people were afraid it would come down to this. And, on New Year's Eve, Jerry and Robyn Carman turned out the lights in the Milltown Mini Mart, locked the doors and went home. Their worries diminished, but so did their hopes and dreams.

The Carmans fought an impressive battle against an age-old enemy: time. That's what hurt them — the time that business slowed to a crawl month after month due to no fault of their own.

They opened the business a few years ago and were a welcome addition to downtown Milltown and the surrounding community. They hired Milltown residents, and, for a while, everything went as planned. They built up a good customer base and welcomed everyone who stepped foot in the store. They were generous, often helping those in need. If anyone walked out of their store hungry, it was because they just didn't ask for the help that was always available there. The Mini Mart was the only place in town to buy gasoline and met the many needs of those who came to Milltown during the warm months to canoe the nearby Blue River.

But Milltown needed a new bridge. The old downtown bridge across the Blue River, a one-lane survivor of earlier times, had outlived its usefulness. The bridge linked the eastern side of town, in Harrison County, with the rest of the town, which is located in Crawford County. Advocates for a new bridge worked for years to get the funding required to build a new structure and to encourage commissioners in both counties to work together to see the project through. When an agreement was finally reached and the preliminary engineering work completed, it was thought that a new bridge could be built alongside the old structure before the old bridge was removed. That plan would keep the traffic flowing uninterrupted through the town.

But we've all heard the saying about the best-laid plans, and this one was no exception. Before contractors could get going on the new bridge, inspectors found the old bridge to be unsafe due to rusted floor beams, and the bridge was closed. Even at that point, no one panicked. Contractors claimed they would have the new bridge completed quickly. But the rains and bad weather came, the river raised and work on the project was delayed time after time. The weeks turned into months, and those months of lost business turned into the demise of the Milltown Mini Mart.

Since the bridge reopened, the Carmans have made every effort to catch up, but the light at the end of the tunnel eluded them. They could never dig themselves out of the hole that the loss of business had put them in.

It's really a shame that there is little help for small businesses like the Milltown Mini Mart. Economic development groups, politicians, the Chamber of Commerce and others work to bring in businesses to the state, offering tax incentives, subsidies and other enticements, but the ones already here often get little support, especially small businesses in small towns, even though they offer jobs to local people and their profits often stay in the community.

The Carmans hope to reopen the business, but that possibility depends mainly on getting help — someone stepping up with ideas that will allow them to keep the doors open while digging out from the losses incurred by the mistakes of others.

Right now, politicians in Indianapolis have put everything else on the back burner and are focusing on helping big business, even at the expense of Hoosier workers, by passing the Right to Work bill. It's a shame they can't focus just a little on small businesses, as well. They are just as important to Indiana, even if they can't spend large amounts of money on campaign donations.

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Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
Monday
10 - 14 - 19
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