#249. Follow-up on Small Town Grocery Stores

Posted on | The Agurban

Follow-up on Small Town Grocery Stores 

One of my most memorable Boomtown talks occurred in Wimbledon, ND, a small town of 237 residents. Over half the town came out to hear me speak back in 2005. When it was announced that their local grocery store would be closing, a corporation was formed and stock shares of $100 each were sold to raise the necessary capital to keep the store open. The Wimbledon Community Grocery Store opened on October 4, 2006, after being closed for less than a week in the transition from M&J’s Grocery.

Here are four more “small town grocery store” stories we want to share.

Westhope ND
 (60 miles north of Minot, population 533) Each of 50 investor/shoppers contributed $600 to raise $30,000, providing a new owner with low-cost financing to open. The investor/owner received $50 off their grocery bill, thus gradually repaying the loan over 1 year.

This is not the first success story in Westhope. The community attracted a company that makes and sells all-natural-fiber casual clothes. The firm employs 20 to manufacture and ship from a former farm implement dealership. Twenty more are employed in at-home sewing jobs. This new factory, the grocery store, and the community-remodeled motel have increased the per capita income 46% in the past 10 years. (Westhope information from P. Springer article in the Feb 23, 2007 Fargo Forum)

Binford ND (40 miles north of Wimbledon, population 200) The grocery / hardware store burned in July 2006 and the owner decided not to rebuild. The community stepped in and the local Development Association raised $85,000 in donations from residents and school alumni. The South Central Regional Council contributed about $50,000 in grant money. Other grants were found to cover another $50,000. Total investment needed is $300,000 for a 7,290 sq.ft. building. A grocer from Casselton will lease the building and operate the business. Opening is expected before summer. (Binford information from J. Knutson article in the Jan 19, 2007 Fargo Forum)


Truman MN (125 miles SW of the Twin Cities, population 1200) In Truman, the local grocery store was saved by a 17-year-old high school senior with deep roots in the community and a knack for business. Part of the financing is a pass-through lease arrangement with the nonprofit Truman Development Corporation. Some of the funding is from the young man’s savings from his farm work and construction jobs. Competition is a new Wal-Mart store in a bigger town twelve miles away. The grocery store had been closed for several months, and community support to buy locally has been strong since the reopening. (Truman MN information from R. Franklin article in the Dec 4, 2006 Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Westminster, SC (approximately 3000 people in the northwestern corner of South Carolina) The outlying area has approximately 30,000 people who live in our school attendance area. There is no public transportation system in our town. In September 2005 our Winn Dixie Grocery Store closed along with all others in South Carolina. The chains contacted said things like our demographics were just not right. This was not acceptable. For two years we did not have a store. A group of private citizens and local government officials would not accept the rejection. Finally in the spring of 2007 a deal was made with the Ingles Market chain. They refurbished the building and opened our store in September of 2007. What a joyful day that was for all the citizens of our town. Two years have passed and the store is going strong. Our story just shows what determination and perseverance can accomplish. It made everyone realize that you must support and appreciate  your local businesses. Sandra Powell, Executive Director, Greater Westminster Area Chamber of Commerce

A grocery store is such an important part of any community. Do what you can to keep yours open!