North Dakota Town Invests in Grocery

Bowdon Locker & GroceryBowdon, a small central North Dakota community, lost their grocery store some years back. Residents of Bowdon responded in a way that makes them stand out among a crowd of rural communities that have experienced the same unfortunate event.

The people of Bowdon refused to give up. They formed a cooperative, purchased shares for equity, secured financing, purchased the grocery and locker buildings, refurbished, restocked and reopened.

The Bowdon Community Cooperative continues to operate the store, and now has its sights set on reopening the adjoining locker plant. The store is small, but provides as many choices as larger stores in bigger communities, including an excellent selection of produce.

Across the United States, 803 counties are classified as “food deserts,” where most residents of the county are 10 or more miles away from a full-service grocery store. The Great Plains has the highest concentration of “food desert” counties, with 418. And 98 percent of those are rural counties. Although rural grocery stores are vital, they are slowly disappearing across the nation.

The Center has published two reports on rural grocery stores. Rural Grocery Stores: Importance and Challenges describes six general challenges facing rural grocery stores: competition with chain stores, coping with high energy costs, meeting minimum buying requirements, labor issues, community support and models of ownership.

The report also examines the importance of grocery stores to rural communities and the people who live there. In particular, rural counties defined as “food deserts” or with low access to food face significant economic and health challenges.

Rural Grocery Stores: Ownership Models that Work offers solutions to the challenges discussed in the first report and examines models of rural grocery ownership and how they deal with each of the challenges.

America’s rural communities face challenges. Many Americans believe the problems are simply too great and deep-seated to overcome. But at the Center for Rural Affairs, we know most of the solutions to the challenges we face will be found on our country roads and rural mainstreets, not in Washington or on Wall Street. We believe the future of these communities holds abundant promise if new economic models are implemented and encouraged.

Bowdon, North Dakota, is a model of how thousands of rural communities across America can shape their own future. And one can only admire the courage, persistence and perseverance citizens of Bowdon have shown in fighting to make the Bowdon Grocery – and a chance for a vibrant future for Bowdon – a reality.

For more information on Bowdon, contact me, John Crabtree, at 402.687.2103, ext. 1010 or johnc@cfra.org.