Small Town Grocery Stores

Small Town Grocery Stores

The aging facilities of retail grocery stores, the changing retail food market, and the beginning of a tidal wave of baby boomer entrepreneurs wishing to retire has shuttered grocery stores across the Midwest.  Since April 2018, the Center has received an average of more than one inquiry per week from small town grocers, economic developers, or community officials asking for assistance with a grocery store in their town or asking for advice on how to deal with a grocery closure.


Experience in the Grocery Business

Our staff has the experience to help with your small town grocery.  Sean Park has more than ten years experience in owning and managing a small town grocery store plus 7 years experience working in retail operations for Walgreens Corporation.  John Gruidl has more than two decades experience in economic development in small towns and conducting feasibility and financial analyses.

If your store is still open, Sean can advise on how to stabilize and grow the business and/or help with succession planning.  If your community has already lost your grocery store, we can help you start a new community-owned store. Every community is different, but the general model that we have developed can be adjusted to fit your circumstances.

A New Model

To match the circumstances of these rural towns, the ICDC designed a new community-owned business model with three major elements.  First, preferred and common stock is sold locally even prior to the recruitment of members, allowing community-minded investors an opportunity to take an equity stake in the business.  Under recent revisions to the Illinois Cooperative Act, the equity cap for an individual investor has been set at $10,000, enabling significant equity to be raised quickly.

Next, the business model adapts to the local market, often resulting in a product focus on fresh produce, meats, and ready-to-eat foods.  Operational costs are kept low by the small size of store and its low cost of rent. Finally, the rural grocery purchases as much produce and meats from farmers within a 50-mile radius — thus limiting distribution costs, offering fresher and healthier foods, and providing economic benefits to the region’s farmers.

An Example – Great Scott! Community Grocery Store in Winchester, IL

Read about Winchester (population 1,500) and its new grocery store!