By Rhea Landholm, Center for Rural Affairs
Grocery stores are a staple on rural main streets across the country. They provide fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, staple food items, and even cleaning supplies, toiletries, and over-the-counter medicine.
We’ve heard from a few communities who are seeking solutions on keeping their grocery stores vibrant. So, here are some steps to start the conversation.
1. Get folks together in a community meeting. Make sure everyone has a say and feels included. If people have invested time, money, and energy into a project, they will want it to succeed.
2. Listen. What does your community need? What kinds of products do people want to buy? If necessary, are people willing to volunteer time or invest money to make it happen?
3. Stack enterprises. Could your grocery store have a coffee shop, cafe, bank, post office, or pharmacy attached? More businesses using the same space and utilities equal lower costs.
4. Provide the best customer service. Have a prominent suggestion box and a bulletin board where people can see the questions and answers. If a product is requested, see if you can carry it. Make the store a source of community pride.
5. Consider all ownership options. A grocery store doesn’t have to be an independent retailer, it can be community-owned, a co-operative, or school-based. The Center for Rural Affairs has written a report on ownership models for grocery stores, which can be found at cfra.org/renewrural/grocery.