Even though Kent Ewing was busy running other businesses, when the residents of Gering, Nebraska, lost their only grocery store, he stepped up to make sure community members had what they needed to get by.
Kent opened Stagecoach Stop in 2010 to serve as a convenience and grocery store, and what started as filling a need for the community has become a business staple in this Nebraska panhandle town.
“Several thousand people didn’t have access to groceries,” he said. “So, I thought this was the right time, and I built my 6,000 square foot building.”
That building houses Stagecoach Stop, which sits on land Kent bought with financial assistance from the Center for Rural Affairs. Center staff also helped Kent with QuickBooks training and technical assistance during the store’s early years.
“The Center has been great,” said Kent. “If I have any questions or problems, I know I can call them for assistance.”
Initially, Stagecoach Stop offered customers standard convenience store merchandise, and also sold essential grocery items like meat, fruits, and vegetables.
Two years later, another grocery store opened in Gering. Kent decided instead of trying to compete with the grocer, he’d eliminate those types of items from Stagecoach Stop and convert his shop completely into a convenience store with a gas station. Through additional financing from the Center, Kent upgraded Stagecoach Stop to include a fuel pump system.
Center Loan Specialist Anthony Gurrola has kept up with Kent making sure the business owner had everything he needed to continue down a successful path.
“Working with Kent is a pleasure,” said Anthony. “He is always willing to chat with me about his business—it’s nice hearing about his vision and goals for Stagecoach Stop, and I enjoy looking for ways to help him along the way.”
Since converting the business to its current set up, Kent has supplied his customers with typical convenience items, and teamed up with another local business to sell homemade breakfast burritos in the store. He also obtains his fuel from a local cooperative.
Business has remained steady over the years, and Kent’s operation has grown from employing one full-time and three part-time workers, including Kent, to three full-time and two part-time workers.
Even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been a stumbling block for many small businesses, Kent’s store has remained open and successful. He says customers and employees have felt safe shopping in the store, as hand sanitizer has been available and masks are worn.
“We have really lucked out,” he said. “We had a few weeks initially where it slowed down, but my yearly average is only down slightly, so I’m not complaining at all.”
Kent knows if he ever needs assistance in the future, he can count on the Center.
“I appreciate what the Center has done,” he said. “As a business owner, when you’re trying to do upgrades or when you’re first getting going, a small amount of money can be a lot of help. Those small amounts make a big difference. I appreciate all the help I got in that way.”
At a glance
320 M St., Gering, NE 69341
Hours: open seven days a week