Saving our Small Town Grocery Stores

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There's an epidemic of losing small town grocery stores across Minnesota and surrounding states. Shuttering the grocery store knocks the wind out of a community. It's like losing a part of the lifeblood of what keeps our small towns vital. To say nothing of losing the access to healthy food, which is the core purpose of these independent businesses.

In the past few days Kerkhoven, MN (nearly twice the size of Clinton) lost its grocery store. That loss means one less place to practically purchase good food to nurture our families but also the loss of a community gathering place and outlet for locally grown food. I'd bought locally grown squash in that Kerkhoven store.

Bonnies fundraiser poster.jpg


We are lucky to have a grocery store on Main Street in Clinton, Minnesota. Did you know that Clinton is one of the smallest towns in Minnesota that has a full service grocery store? It says a lot about community loyalty and shows that people support their local businesses. But it also says a lot about the "stick-to-it-ness" of store owner, Bonnie.

What's right about small town grocery?


  • -access to healthy food for people in our community- everyday and in times of need

  • -outlet for locally grown food

  • -responsive to our requests for specialty foods (gluten free, etc...) and organic food

  • -keeping Main Street and small towns lively and alive

  • -having a gathering place with a purpose in the middle of our town

Once a town loses its grocery store it is very difficult or impossible to find the people and the financial backing to run such a low margin enterprise. In this day and age, having a rural grocery store in your small town requires support from the whole community.

What does having the support of the community mean?

1) Shopping for your groceries at that local store. Please 'vote' with your food dollars and help keep your local small town grocery store thriving. ** see below** for shopping from the circular.

2) Show up for the community fund raiser dinner from 5-7pm on Wednesday October 30th at the Clinton Memorial Building. There will be a community dinner to help purchase energy efficient freezers for Bonnie's Hometown Grocery.

So please come tomorrow night. Our grocery store in Clinton, Minnesota is what would be called a mom and pop shop. And yes, it is a private business, but it is run also for the public good of our community. Our town would be a lot quieter and sadder without the grocery store.

Having those new energy efficient freezers will go a long way towards keeping the lights on and the doors open on Main Street for years to come.

Not Just a Minnesota Issue:
The plight of small town or rural grocery stores is not limited to Minnesota. The loss of these important parts of the rural infrastructure is occurring across the Great Plains. In Kansas, this epidemic was hitting rural communities so hard, that Kansas State University started The Rural Grocery Initiative to research and support efforts to help small town grocery stores thrive. You can follow the Rural Grocery Initiative on Facebook, Twitter and see their website here: http://www.ruralgrocery.org/

One recent finding they published is the 70.6% of small town grocery stores sold locally produced food- produce and meats. So for those of us interested helping farmers diversify and have other profitable outlets for locally grown food, we need to support the rural grocery as an important part of that equation. Frankly, having a local grocery store is an important part of community food security and improved access to food of all sorts. In the event of any crisis, we will be grateful to have grocery store throughout all corners of our state to help keep our food supply stable and running.

I believe that Minnesota could really benefit from having the Rural Grocery Initiative work in our state and instead of reinventing the wheel, I'd like to see K-States good work put to use here. There is a lot of attention and support that our Main Street small grocery stores could use and here's a source of some good ideas.

Shopping at Small Town Stores--or how to save money by buying off of the circular!

Bonnies Hometown Grocery store in Clinton, MN runs a weekly ad of specials that many times cost less than large superstore prices. The circular that lists the specials arrives in the Valley Shopper and the Northern Star newspaper and can be found on line here. I plan my weekly grocery shopping around the circular and buy those items on special in large quantities.

Page 1 Bonnies circular 10-30-2013.jpg

For example, it is now the time of the year for big pots of chili, a favorite in our house. The Chili beans are on sale at Bonnie's and so I would purchase a case of 12 cans. I know that we use 2 cans per month and the case will last our family 6 months. Since the expiration date is 2 years out, this is a good investment in food that my family will enjoy. You can do this with many items on the circular. We make homemade pizzas on Friday nights, so I buy mozzarella cheese by the case (12 packages) when it is on sale and then freeze it. Shredded mozzarella freezes perfectly fine.

Likewise, when Tuna Fish is on sale I will buy a case of that as we eat tuna melts a couple Sunday's a month. Now that is a large case, 48 cans, but we use 4 cans a month so we go through a case a year. Tuna has a long shelf life, so I've never had an issue with them expiring.

Now of course you don't have to buy in case lots- you can just shop off the circular to stock your cupboards a few cans at a time.

In a small town store, like Bonnie's, I feel like I have a personal grocer! When the shopper is full of good ads, I text Bonnie and order cases of everything from toilet paper to coffee to spaghetti sauce.
• I save money on my groceries
• Save money on gas by shopping locally
• Feel good that I'm helping keep a Main Street business open and running

One issue that is a tougher nut to crack is getting fresh produce. It's hard for our small town store to carry fresh produce if people are not buying it regularly. This is how it works- the more we purchase, the fresher and more produce Bonnie can carry. And thank you to Bonnie who orders special request organic produce to stock on the shelves- items like organic carrots and kale. And there are frozen and canned fruits and vegetables available- all of which are healthy alternatives to fresh produce.

So friends, in these times it takes a whole community to keep your local grocery store doors open. Please shop and buy locally. And while you are shopping locally, you can save money from the circular, say hello to old friends, make new ones, and feel good about keeping your local community healthy and thriving.

5 Comments

I love to see the resilience of these little stores. Although our little corner store is more of a convenience mart than a full-service grocery, they've diversified as much as possible, become WIC-certified, added a small lunch line, and carry garden produce when they can get it. Up the road, Bergen's has done much the same, and keeps a small stock of international treats and quality teas.
There was a time when I felt I had to shop at the cheapest place in town to make ends meet. Now, I realize the cost difference to me isn't that drastic, and in the long run I'm feeding the heart of a community rather than corporate coffers.

yes it a great idea to save our small shops

I love the situation in small town groceries..very friendly

Really a nice idea, will be a great start

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This page contains a single entry by Kathryn Draeger published on October 29, 2013 6:07 AM.

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