Thursday, December 9, 2010

Grocery stores as rural community hubs

The Center for Rural Affairs highlights the importance of local grocery stores to rural communities in a recent report. The report, written by Jon M. Bailey, provides this grocery story closure data from the Midwest and Great Plains:
  • An Iowa State University study found that in Iowa the number of grocery stores with employees dropped by almost half from 1995 to 2005, from about 1,400 stores in 1995 to slightly over 700 just 10 years later. Meanwhile, “supercenter” grocery stores (Wal-Mart and Target, for example) increased by 175 percent in the 10-year period.
  • In rural Iowa, 43 percent of grocery stores in towns with populations less than 1,000 have closed.
  • According to Kansas State University, 82 grocery stores in communities of fewer than 2,500 people in Kansas have closed since 2007, and nearly one in five rural grocery stores have gone out of business since 2006. In total, 38 percent of the grocery stores in Kansas towns of less than 2,500 closed between 2006 and 2009.
A second CFRA report suggests how rural communities might respond to the prospective loss of grocery stores.

Interestingly, I recently read this story in relation to my November visit to Australia. It tells of how one Mallee (northwestern Victoria) town, Woomelang, saved its grocery store (a/k/a "shop"). An excerpt from Darren Gray's story follows:
[W]hen the town's only grocery store closed with about three hours' notice in May, residents decided they wanted to shop locally, rather than drive 109 kilometres to Swan Hill or 30 kilometres to other small towns in the region.

So people from the town, which has a population of 200, and the surrounding farming district, chipped in to raise enough money to create a community-owned grocery store. They converted an old farm machinery shop — which the town's development association bought two years ago — into a grocery store, advertised for a tenant, and late last month celebrated the shop's grand opening.

To get the shop up and running, the community raised $85,000, most of which was spent on renovating and fitting out the building. Donations, ranging from $10 to $10,000, came from individuals and families.

Sounds a bit like a cooperative, one of the models discussed in the CFRA Report.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This trend is more than disquieting. When I recently returned to Iowa for my annual visit - this time my mother's 89th birthday - I drove through a number of small towns. In several, the number of store closures was only exceeded by the number of tumbleweeds. I suppose time has to march on, but these are my roots...seeing this happen makes me feel like something of value has been lost - not only to me, but to all of us. I like the idea of the community owned store - I hope it spreads.