Nothing beats locally owned

Looking back, Bob Bagby’s explanation about the dismantling of our 54 Drive-In appears disingenuous.
Bagby, president of Sterling Six Cinemas, was given Page 1 priority in the Register for his defense of the decision. In his Dec. 1 letter he stated the drive-in’s screen was outdated and no longer suited for today’s movies.
“The 54 Drive-In can’t handle” most of the new technologies that demand wider screens, he said, adding, “the screen is simply too small and of the wrong ratio” and “would have to be replaced in order for the facility to continue. .... It cannot be restored.”
We gave him the benefit of the doubt — too soon.
What we thought was headed for the scrap pile is instead being fixed up for use elsewhere.
Workers are now dismantling the screen for a move to Texas, where it will be added to a drive-in complex. Even the long-discarded speakers are being salvaged to give moviegoers that hint of nostalgia.
With all due respect, Mr. Bagby, we would have appreciated the whole truth. We can take it.
As a small town, we’re used to being kicked around.
Big chains come in at our begging only to decimate our longtime retailers.
Sure, Walmart is a regional draw. But it’s all but eliminated its local competition. Wasn’t so many years ago when we had four groceries and a hardware store where the crew knew a wingnut from a bolt.
Forever we’ve been trying to attract some kind of chain restaurant to locate east of town by the Super 8 Motel. None have because the necessary numbers aren’t there to satisfy boards of directors.
Using that same measure, this newspaper wouldn’t be a daily; Mark and Jenise Wade would not have started their new Sidelines restaurant; and Jon and Gail Dunbar would not have bought Western Auto.
This fall we were all holding our collective breath that the stores affected by the downtown fire would reopen. That they did, to a one, was a blessing.

BAGBY’S DECISION to sell off our drive-in was financially motivated. Nothing wrong about that. Truth be told, it was a sound decision to sell off an under-producing entity.
And it’s another wake-up call that there’s no silver bullet that’s going to make Iola successful other than fine-tuning the age-old lesson: Work hard and put the customer first.
That’s what keeps people coming in the door.
In Iola, the formula works exceptionally well because of our built-in loyalty to keep struggling or fledging businesses afloat.
This Christmas season, thank your friends and neighbors for believing in Iola and the promise it holds for future generations. Together, we can make it a town for tomorrow.

— Susan Lynn