Monday, February 21, 2011

Rural King - where every trip is an adventure

Sometimes the internet is a beautiful thing - today I discovered, the website of Rural King Supply, self-described as "America's Farm and Home Store." Rural King is based in Mattoon, Illinois and has been open for over fifty years. While the flagship remains in Mattoon, there are 46 other stores in seven states.

There are a number of striking things about Rural King. First, the variety of things one can purchase at Rural King rivals Wal-Mart. You can purchase everything from livestock feed to fashion clothing and toys. As the website points out, "you never know what you will find at your local Rural King and that's why every trip is an adventure." My favorite item was the "rural mailbox." I'm not sure what makes it rural, but I'd probably buy it for $12.99.

Second, the store espouses so many of the stereotypes we have studied thus far in class. Rural King is currently soliciting photos for a 2012 Calendar - in case people need inspiration for subject matter, Rural King provides a number of suggestions: "Possible subjects include; [sic] farm scenery, county fair [sic], pets and farm animals, or any unique photos related to rural life, and or [sic] Rural King." Third, Rural King is featured on Wikipedia and has over 7,000 fans on Facebook.

One of my assumptions regarding rurality is a sense of disconnectedness, yet Rural King Supply is a direct challenge to that assumption. Other recent posts on the blog discuss the closing of post offices and lack of broadband internet, but Rural King is banking on the fact that people not only have access to, but are reliant on, such services. Using the internet since 1997 to feature its line of products throughout the country, leveraging social media websites, and capitalizing on niche markets throughout the United States, Rural King has thus far been able to compete alongside the Wal-Marts of the world. I hope they keep it up and open a store in California - I'm in need of a good adventure.


vlshaw said...

Now I know where I will be doing my Christmas shopping. I think that there is a large segment of rural America that is dependent on the internet for shopping, and it will only continue to grow.

N.P. said...

I think as broadband access grows, such a store will become even more important. This post certainly echoes Marta's post about catalog shopping - it demonstrates that access to outside goods and services does exist. Once it becomes the norm, rather than the exception, this can only open up doors for such communities.

Chez Marta said...

Thanks N.P., for the shout out. On the other hand, I am thinking this week about how much this shuffling of goods that we purchase online is costing us in terms of externalities? We pay for postage, but we ignore the carbon footprint of the shipping (although I always order my books from the nearest source on And my latest post talks about how shipping goods destroys the dirt, in more ways than we usually think of. Let's continue exploring sustainable ideas: local manufacturing, locavore dining and so on.

Caitlin said...

I wonder what stores like the Rural King do to the rural communities they aim to serve. If you can purchase anything your heart dreams from the Rural King and have it delivered to your post office within a short amount of time, it is likely you will do that over going down to the local mom-and-pop general store and buying something not quite as good for twice the price. But, if you aren't supporting your neighborhood store, it will go out of business, your relationship with the owners will likely wane, and the community will suffer. Where does that leave everyone?