After sitting closed for a considerable time, a Bonners Ferry business reopened in December, and even though it's in a good location in a beautiful newer building, offers great prices made even better with a three month long grand opening underway until March 31, Sam's Stop & Shop #14, 6603 Main Street on the South Hill, still sits far too empty.
"It's a beautiful store and we keep it well stocked and spotless, our prices are good, but we aren't seeing much business," an employee said. "Maybe it's because there are four other stations of this type in town, I don't know. We get a few from Canada who stop in."
She is one of three local people hired to work at Sam's, alongside owners Mohinder "Mike" Singh and K.K. Bob, brothers from Punjab, India, who immigrated to the United States and started their first Sam's around 20 years ago near Sacramento, California.
The two now make Priest River their home and split their time between their newest store in Bonners Ferry and others in Coeur d'Alene, Spokane Valley, Rathdrum and other locations across the west coast.
"We expected it to be slow to start because of winter," Mike said. "We are hoping it picks up as it gets warmer."
Though not spoken of openly, another reason for the dearth of local clientele might belie the "friendliest town in Idaho" title Bonners Ferry takes so much pride in.
"I heard people call the owners derogatory names as I was going in," one customer said after a first visit. "It's a shame, because these are friendly, hardworking people who have made a considerable investment in our community."
"Let's not discuss that," the brothers said when asked, "We have a good store with great Mexican food, a deli with sandwiches, snacks, beer and wine, soft drinks, fresh coffee, gas, diesel and propane at good prices and more. Maybe people just don't know we're open."
Sam's Stop & Shop #14 is open and well worth a visit.
They're open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through winter and will extend their hours for summer from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. To learn more, call (208) 267-9843.