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Small Town Grocer Saved By A Vote
When the only grocery store in Erie, Kan., was going to close, the city bought it. One of only a few city-owned groceries, the Erie Market is holding its own.
  “We have done well in sales with the economy the way it is,” says Cindy Garland, store manager. “But the people who shop here don’t care about the economy. They appreciate the convenience.”
  While the city council approved the purchase, it was first approved by the town’s voters. When the owners of the store announced their plans to retire, the city sent out a letter with a single question to residents: Do you approve the City of Erie purchasing Stub’s Market?
  Residents responded in the positive. Of the 311 who sent back an answer, 213 (68.5%) said yes.
  If the answer had been no, Erie’s 1,047 residents would have been left with only the local Dollar General store, which carries no fresh produce. Their other option was to drive 13 miles one way or 18 another. Some residents don’t have cars.
  The city paid less than $500,000 for the store and its contents and took ownership at the start of 2021. Luckily for them, Garland, who left the area to carve out a career in the restaurant business, was planning to retire to her hometown.
  “I went from managing a $4 million per year business with 100 employees to running the Erie Market,” says Garland. “The biggest challenge is to increase volume while trying to lower prices. Keeping store shelves stocked has also been a challenge. The big stores get first dibs and better prices, and we get the leftovers.”
  The city council recognized they might have to subsidize store operations if it lost money. Until the furnace and air conditioner failed, that wasn’t necessary.
  “The city is subsidizing us now, but we are confident we will see a big turn to the profit side next year,” says Garland.
  Residents rely on the store for groceries and also fresh lunches, like BBQ pork and tacos. The store also hosts a Champ’s Chicken freshly fried chicken outlet.
  Keeping the store open has had a positive impact on the town in other ways. Since the city committed to the purchase, a new daycare center opened, as well as a restaurant and coffee shop. The director of the city library was quoted in a recent story, “Once the ball started rolling, we started getting people saying, well, we could do this, and we can do this.”
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Erie Market, 525 W State St., Erie, Kan. 66733 (ph 620-244-3216).

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2022 - Volume #46, Issue #6