Rathdrum Trading Post Hardware, a Do it Best member in Rathdrum, Idaho, has been open since 2013. While busy planning to build a new store in Rathdrum in early 2016, the store’s leaders received a surprise eviction notice from the new owners of their existing location. They had less than two months to be out, but their new store was at least six months from opening. They made the difficult decision to close, but an overwhelming response from the community, which spread on social media, caused them to find a way to stay open. Matt Smith, the store’s manager, shared this first-person account of their tumultuous and heartwarming experience.
Rathdrum Trading Post Hardware opened in 2013 in leased space. We started looking for a new, bigger location that we would own and found one. We wanted to start building in late 2015, but it’s hard and costly to build in the winter in Idaho. So we decided to hold off until the next spring. We talked to the landlord about extending our lease on a short-term basis, but they were dragging their feet.
On February 1, 2016, we found out why. We discovered the property had been sold, we were not welcome to sign an extended lease and we had to vacate the building by March 31.
For the first 36 hours we didn’t see a way forward. We had to wait until spring arrived to even begin building and we couldn’t make it if we had to be out of operation for five or six months. We also had to contend with a new 18,000-square-foot hardware store opening down the street.
What’s frustrating is that we were good tenants and had made improvements to the location. The new landlords didn’t think they could ethically be in contact with us before they officially took over and they knew we were planning to leave. However, they thought our new building would be ready by the spring, so they went out and found a new tenant, Dollar Tree, to take our place.
I called the staff together to let them know what we were facing. They all wanted us to find a way to stay open, but we didn’t see a way forward. After getting the news about the eviction, that night we posted our situation on Facebook and it exploded. We started getting calls from the local press and TV stations. The new owners of the building called us back, because they were getting savaged on social media and in the press. Normally we might get a couple of hundred views when we post on Facebook, but overnight we had over 8,000 views and it was shared by 1 percent of the town with lots of comments in support of us. It was a full-time job responding to all the comments.
We were able to throw a plan together pretty quickly to save the store, because the community got behind us. They were begging us to stay and offering trucks and manpower to move. The grocery store offered to let us use a small part of their store. The next day we identified a much smaller vacant location in the same shopping center to operate out of. It was a very chaotic time.