Reile says he isn’t worried about competition from the Wal-Mart in Cody. "We're a different breed of cat," he says, pointing out that the Merc carries high-end brand names as well as $5 shirts. Still, even the Merc's most dedicated supporters admit to an occasional shopping trip to Cody or Billings. "We're all guilty of it," Ramos admits.
Despite shareholders' enthusiasm for the enterprise, the steady leakage of dollars remains a fact of life in Powell—and in many of the country's quietest places. "I hope the Merc will help us stem the outflow," says Bonner. "But has it removed the threat? No, it hasn't."