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.