Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Road to Recovery Town Has Taken Its Losses, Looking to Gain

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Road to Recovery Town Has Taken Its Losses, Looking to Gain

Article excerpt

THE CITY OF OLD MONROE has been isolated, its business sector crippled, its revenue slashed. Still, the gutsy little town in Lincoln County is on the rebound.

In 1985, Highway 79 was rerouted to bypass Old Monroe. The loss of through traffic had a "crippling effect" on businesses, according to Wayne Keeteman, a resident of Old Monroe and a barber there for 31 years.

In the flood of 1993, a levee kept the water out of town and saved its businesses, but the permanent loss of some residents was the beginning of the end for the IGA store, the only full-line grocery store in town and one of the larger meeting places for residents to swap stories and learn the latest local news. "Your grocery store is your hub," said Loretta Harke, a 40-year resident.

The store was also critical to the town's income. It provided about 50 percent of the sales tax revenue. Tona Sitze, city clerk, said that in 1994 sales tax revenue for the town totaled $38,681.88. In 1995, with the IGA closed in the final five months of the year, sales tax revenue dropped to $22,722.64.

The owners of the building that housed the IGA are Mark and Charles Stuckey, who grew up in Old Monroe. "We're pursuing all possibilities to reopen the IGA," said Mark Stuckey, who now lives in O'Fallon.

Despite the setbacks, Old Monroe has no intention of cashing in its chips.

"We've been hurt, but we're not dead yet," Keeteman said. Old Monroe, founded in 1820, always has been a good business town, he said. The 242 residents, down from 272 in the 1990 census, are proud people who stick together, he said. Some businesses, he noted, are flourishing, such as Schacher's General Store, which opened in 1885.

In its early years, Schacher's accepted barter such as eggs and live chickens in exchange for merchandise. The general store is one of the "last of the breed," according to Marvin Schacher, grandson of the store's founder and co-owner with his sister, Juanita Schacher. Schacher's still provides residents with meats, groceries, hardware and even "five-buckle" overshoes.

"It's great to live here," said Marvin Schacher. "The people in Old Monroe are very nice. …

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