Many small businesses have faced shrinking markets, but for Dana and Tammy Sparkes, owners of a convenience store in Empire, Nev., the problem is especially acute. Empire is literally disappearing due to a plant closure by drywall maker United States Gypsum, which practically owned the town. As locals move away, the Sparkeses have shifted into tourism mode, stocking up on beer and camping equipment for desert explorers. "We were the only store in Empire — and still are," Dana Sparkes said.

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