Mar 23, 2018

NGPF Podcast: Tim Talks To Co-Founder of the Community Store in Saranac Lake, Melinda Little

In a little village of just about 5,400 full-time residents, the Community Store in Saranac Lake is one amazing entrepreneurial endeavor. I stumbled upon the store during a recent vacation in the Adirondacks (a 6 million acre park in upstate New York) and was intrigued by its origins. After all, who is opening new department stores? The townspeople of Saranac Lake, that's who!

What makes this department store one-of-a-kind? Well, to start, it was backed by over 750 mostly local shareholders, who also doubled as volunteers when it came to renovating the building. The store was co-founded by Melinda Little, who spearheaded the effort to create this social enterprise. In a nation that’s been captivated by Amazon’s rise to fame, this "brick and mortar" department store demonstrates that there is still a place for scrappy local retailers (a.k.a. the department store that could). 


  • 0:00–1:24 Introduction
  • 1:25–5:23 Out with the old, in with the community store
  • 5:24–7:37 A divisive time for the little village of Saranac Lake
  • 7:38–11:12 The trifecta: Brains, brawn, business plan
  • 11:13–13:58 Method to success: accessible and affordable stocks
  • 13:59–14:27 A word from NGPF
  • 14:28–18:16 Road to the finish line: share parties & festival floats with hanging underwear
  • 18:17–20:42 Less about the money and more about the social enterprise element
  • 20:43–22:02 Living rurally has its pros and cons
  • 22:03–25:47 Shareholders doubled as volunteers to renovate the building 
  • 25:48–29:09 Learning as they grow
  • 29:10–33:25 Front page worthy: how the community store ended up in the New York Times
  • 33:26–35:06 Other cities that have tried to pursue this unique endeavor
  • 35:07–37:41 How brick and mortar stores are adapting to modern times
  • 37:42–38:31 Conclusion

Resources mentioned:


  • “You can’t sustain a town on visitors. You need a core group.”
  • “The trick for an effort like this is not only sticking to it… but it’s also staying in front of people.”


About the Authors

Danielle Bautista

Danielle is a native of Southern California and a recent graduate from the University of Maine, where she braved the frigid winters—a feat in and of itself—and earned her Bachelor's degree in International Affairs. She has a passion for working with non-profit organizations and serving populations in underprivileged communities. When Danielle isn't writing NGPF blog posts, spearheading various outreach projects, or managing contests and flash surveys, you can find her doing some sort of outdoor activity, learning a new hobby, or cracking what she thinks are witty puns!

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.

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