WANTED - Rural Grocery Stores

by Terry D. Whipple - Executive Director of the Juneau County Economic Development Corp.

I love small rural communities. As a teen

growing up in the 70’s I lived in a rural town of

1,200 and we seemed to have it all. We had a

theater where I took my first date… an ice cream

shop where I met my friends… a bowling alley,

drug store, appliance store, clothing store, toy

store, auto parts store, and of course… a grocery

store. We actually had two full grocery stores but

the one my family used had a carousel so mom

could shop without our company (and we

thought she just wanted us to have fun).

So much has changed in our small rural communities.

When I first delved into this economic

development effort, my greatest fear was that

our small rural towns were in danger of becoming

nothing more than a Post Office and a Co-op.

Well, despite the ongoing discussions at the federal

level concerning the post offices, I no longer

have a fear of our small communities disappearing.

They are just changing. One of the areas of

change that I have been closely studying is one

that many of our communities are dealing with

right now - the town grocery store.

As with many other traditional institutions in

rural areas, the grocery store is slowly being

drained out of our communities. When I was

young, a town of 1,200 could support 2 grocery

stores but now it takes a population of approximately

4,000 to support a single store. Rural grocery

stores face competition with large chain

stores, peoples’ willingness to travel longer distances,

and often costly minimum buying requirements.

It’s pretty obvious from talking with community

leaders and citizens around Juneau County

that having a grocery store is still real important

and worthy of fighting for. Many say, “How can

we get anyone to move here if we don’t have a

grocery store?” This is the reason Juneau County

Economic Development Corporation (JCEDC)

is hosting a workshop for the entire 7 Rivers Alliance

Region, called “In the Bag - Strategies for

Sustaining Community Grocery Stores”. The

event will be held Wednesday, May 11th from

10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the LYNXX Lemonweir

Valley Telcom Office in Camp Douglas

(lower level).

We will discuss the grocery store situation that

our communities are facing and listen to top consultants

that specialize in this area. We will also

hear from grocery store executives themselves

on what it takes to get a store in your community

and find out about other unique grocery models

that are successfully replacing the traditional

store model. Representatives from all municipalities

are encouraged to attend, and the general

public is also welcome. For details or to

register go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/


stores-tickets-22586898020 or call us at

(608) 427-2070.