Saturday, May 22, 2010

Grocery Store Mythology, Part II

 NOT our grocery store. Yet.

Earlier this month, I penned a screed against mythologizing the local grocery store, little knowing that our local grocery store would announce that they're likely to close within the next six weeks due to a general lack of customers.

There may be many reasons they're not getting the customer base they need to stay open. One of them may be the 91-cent onion we purchased there earlier today. As much as I'd like to support our local businesses -- and we've got a few of them, even a dentist, a rarity these days in towns of 1,200 -- part of me also wishes they'd do a little more to support us. The 91-cent onion is, of course, indicative of the prices there -- when we can drive a bit further to find an onion that's only 33 cents, and a lot of other things that are also significantly less expensive, shopping locally makes less sense, even if we have to spend more on gasoline to shop further abroad.

So I guess what we'd miss if the local store closes is the convenience -- and maybe that's the kind of thing they need to focus on. One thing that might help is if they kept more than banker's hours -- if you need groceries after 6:30 pm, you have to drive further afield as the local store is closed. Maybe back when they set the hours people weren't shopping after 6:30. But maybe part of the reason is that the store is never open after 6:30, so the shoppers just assume they have to go elsewhere. I remember a few years ago when my wife suddenly got a migraine at about midnight and I had to drive fifteen minutes outside of town to even find a vending machine where I could get her a Diet Coke. Would have been nice to have the local store open as an option then. They could interact with the community more, find out what they want to shop for in a local store, and why they might shop elsewhere. Maybe they can't beat the bigger stores in price, so they've got to stress the convenience, and stock their shelves in a way that makes the place a convenience center, not a price-beater. Maybe I should get off my duff and offer my meager services to them.

Sugar City's pretty unique among small towns. We drove through many small towns from Wyoming to Illinois and back a few years ago, and never saw a town as small as Sugar with its own grocery store. Maybe for good reason -- there are bigger cities with bigger stores. But surely there's a niche Sugar's grocery store could fill that the big guys can't. My wife, for instance, grew up in a small town very similar in size to Sugar, which also had the advantage/disadvantage of close proximity to a larger community with more food shopping choices. All they had, however, was a gas store that tried to masquerade as a grocery store by stocking really old, brick-hard brown sugar and crackers that came with free ants. Our store in Sugar, even with its warts, is a lot better than that.

So, wonderful folk in Sugar City -- what would it take to get you to shop more at our local grocery store? Fill me in on the details.

1 comment:

Doug Byrd said...

I'm sure gonna miss those Gummy Bears in the Zip-Lock bags!