Helping Small Town Grocery Stores

Thriving rural communities require healthy, energetic people eating good food. But many rural grocery stores are struggling or have closed in recent years.

Communities can take simple steps to address these challenges, however. Call a community meeting and get others involved. Ask them what hours would be convenient? What kinds of products they want to buy? Where should the store be located? If necessary, are people willing to volunteer some time or invest money to make it happen?

Community-owned stores, cooperatives, or school-based models are options to consider in addition to private ownership. The Center for Rural Affairs has written a report on ownership models and compiled stories about what other towns are doing to start-up or retain their stores. (http://www.cfra.org/renewrural/grocery).

Could your grocery store have a coffee shop, cafe, bank, post office, or pharmacy attached? Are there other businesses or schools who could make use of the food distribution? More businesses using the same space and utilities equal lower costs. Utilities are some of the most costly parts of owning a grocery store. Consider ways to be more energy efficient.

Successful grocery stores commit to pleasing customers. Take suggestions and respond to them. If a product is requested, carry it if possible, and make a big deal about having it. If people have invested time, money, and energy into a project, they will want it to succeed. Learn customers’ names, be visible in the store, and make it a source of community pride.

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