Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Rural Colorado towns get creative to keep grocers

The community-owned grocery in Walsh, Colo.
(High Country News photo by Katherine Egli)
A pair of rural Colorado towns have created models for success that could serve similar areas facing a food desert, Leah Todd reports for High Country News.

When the only grocery store in Walsh, Colo., closed 10 years ago, "the town’s 600 residents, suddenly facing a 40-mile round trip for food," pooled their money and reopened the local grocery store as a community-owned store, Todd reports.

Not only is the store turning a profit, but a $160,000 loan used to restock and remodel the store is nearly paid off, Todd writes. Walsh’s grocery is thriving, "thanks in large part to meticulous inventory management. (Think mark-ups, though still within reason, for coveted fresh produce, and steep discounts for staples like milk.) The store’s profits fold back into the business, which has 18 mostly part-time employees."

In Saguache, located 35 miles from the nearest full-service grocery store, the town's 500 residents can shop locally at "an off-the-wall nonprofit model that blends revenue from a thrift store with health food products," Todd writes. "Cofounder Marge Hoglin, a semi-retired former journalist and small business owner who bought the property with a partner for $45,000 in 2012, today employs three part-time worker" and "keeps produce prices low by maintaining close relationships with local growers . . . The thrift store, with its donated, free inventory, generates enough revenue to cover overhead costs, subsidizing the health foods operation." (Read more)

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