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Supporting our Small Grocery Stores

The Grocery Store Effort
The second Rural Grocery Store Summit was held June, 2010 in Manhattan.  At least eight states attended.  For summary about the summit go to ruralgrocery.org.

The first Rural Grocery Store Summit was held on Sunday, June 1, 2008 at the Kansas Sampler Center near Inman. About 90 people attended. The organizer of this event was K-State's Center for Engagement and Community Development. It was attended by small grocery store owners, representatives from cities who want stores, distributors and re-distributors, and rural advocate agencies.

Common issues were discussed and a steering committee was formed to take the
issues forward. To keep up-to-date on the progress or to find support, go to
www.ruralgrocery.org and sign up for the Grocer's Forum.

In 2001, there were about 120 independently-owned grocery stores in the state with 1-4 employees and over 200 with 5-9 employees. Since that time, many of those stores have had to close.

Most of these stores struggle to survive and work incredibly hard just to keep the doors open in small towns. Unfortunately, many of these stores don't make it. What can be done? We need them in our small towns.

On April 22, 2001 over 60 grocery store owners, suppliers, wholesalers, mayors, and a Small Business Development representative packed the Kansas Sampler Center to share common issues and swap ideas. Most of the towns represented had a population of less than 700.

It was a rousing three-hour session covering a myriad of topics from public awareness to cooperative efforts between stores. This event, organized by the Kansas Sampler Foundation, was the first time small grocers had the chance to come together to encourage each other, ask questions of each other, and share successful efforts. Several representatives from towns wanting to have a grocery store were in attendance.


  • Do you know that grocery stores need to buy approximately $10,O00 worth of inventory every week from their grocery store supplier for the wholesale truck to even stop at their store? One store reports that if they buy less than $10,000 per week they have to pay an additional two percent.

    One solution that has taken root in some parts of the state is for one store to deliver to other small stores, providing a way for each of them to stay alive.

  • Some small stores can't get product delivered because of their location and relatively small order.

  • The small stores cannot compete with the chain stores that get quantity discounts.

  • Though townspeople are really glad for the convenience of a local store, they don't all support it to the extent that will make for a profitable business.

Lizard Lips

The Lizard Lips Story

Country Junction, aka Lizards Lips Grill and Deli, was chosen to be part of a pilot project to prove the point that lots of little money can make a BIG difference to a small business.

We were looking for 1,000 people to spend $5 by the end of May of 2001 at this convenience store/ bait shop/ grill and deli in Woodson County at the intersection of U.S. 54 and K-105 north of Toronto.

That goal was reached due to support from Kansas Explorer Club members and media interest which resulted in general public involvement.

Not only has Lizard Lips benefited from the extra business but the campaign has improved their area trade base and the feedback from people coming in to spend their $5 has provided an energy boost. Word of mouth has brought in even more customers to their store and the area.

Those who have come in to spend the $5 can know they have contributed to helping a store survive. In exchange, they received an authentic experience!

It's true that lots of little money can make a big difference in locally-owned businesses in small towns. Explorers, go out and feel good about spending money in small towns - even a couple of dollars at a time!