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Doheny blames ‘Obamacare’ for demise of failing dollar-store chain

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Matthew A. Doheny, Republican candidate for the 21st Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, fired out a news release today that squarely placed the closure of the remaining Yankee One Dollar Stores on the Affordable Care Act.

“Today’s closure of Yankee One Dollar stores throughout the region is a sad reminder of the real world impacts of Obamacare on small businesses. From small businesses to our medical device manufacturers, Obamacare has hurt the job creators that put bread on the table for North Country families. Our representative in Congress cast the deciding vote to make Obamacare the law, I hope to cast the deciding vote to repeal and replace it,” the Doheny release quotes Mr. Doheny as saying.

A spokesman from Mr. Doheny said the candidate learned of the situation through a story in the Schenectady Gazette. You can read that story here: http://wdt.me/o4MWPW. You will note that story does not mention Obamacare.

However, company owner and President Keith Filke told the Glens Falls Post Star that Obamacare and the increase in the minimum wage was causing the closure of the chain of low-end-merchandise stores. The closure of the chain’s last 23 stores comes at the end of a series of prior closures; at one time, the chain numbered 39 stores. The reference to Obamacare in the Post Star story was picked up in a conservative blog called Legal Insurrection, which in fact criticized the Schenectady paper for not citing the Affordable Care act in its story.

And Mr. Filke has some history of citing external forces for his stores’ failures.

When the Massena store closed down late last year, Mr. Filke blamed the closing on poor sales, the coming of big-box stores such as Walmart and the decline of the Massena business district.

This is from a North Country Now story in January: “Flike said Massena’s business district has shifted away from the St. Lawrence Plaza and Mall in the past few years. He said big box stores, like Walmart, have grabbed a large portion of the customer base.”

“We don’t want to pull out of Massena, but the past couple of years we’ve been seeing very poor sales,” Keith Flike, president of the chain said.

No mention of Obamacare or the hike in the minimum wage here. Other external factors are to blame.

In a different interview with the Albany Times Union, he had this to say: “Our profits are taking a tremendous nose dive this year,” said Keith Flike, who owns 27 Yankee Dollar stores in and around the Capital Region. “I equate the dollar store industry to the perfect storm. It’s not just the cost of the fuel but the devaluation of the dollar overseas and in Canada.”

About half of the chain’s stores appear to have closed before the Affordable Care Act started to affect businesses and before the minimum wage was increased. In a number of interviews, Mr. Filke seemed to be more concerned about the business climate and competition than government regulations. And dollar stores have largely left the landscape in Northern New York in general, creating the larger question of whether the business model works in the economic dictates of 2014.

Finally, the jobs created in such low-end retail operations come with low wages, which becomes apparent when the owner blames the closing on the hike in the minimum wage. Minimum-wage jobs are far more prevalent than higher wage positions, so displacement of workers might not be a large issue.

Mr. Doheny’s spokesman said the candidate was not suggesting that Obamacare was the sole cause of the chain’s failure.

“It’s clear that business owners have a lot of challenges in New York state,” he said. “We’re not suggesting that is the only answer.”

The spokesman said that the cost of Obamacare on small businesses is added to other factors that include state and regulatory burdens Mr. Doheny would like to ease.

“That’s one reason people and businesses are leaving the state,” he said.

And he said that Rep. Owens’s vote for Obamacare has become symbolic of the issue and brought it closer to the people of the 21st Congressional District, making it resonate with voters.

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