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Thread: Recruiting a grocery store

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    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Recruiting a grocery store

    Our town is a small town with few retail services. We have a convenience store and that is about it. "Big Box" Grocers are just 10-12 miles away or so. Yet, there is a desire to have a grocery store in town. I realize that none of the big chains will look at us at this point. I was thinking of trying to recruit someone who might have something in between a conveniece store and full service grocery store. We are going to offer suspended zoning standards possible for a site in our old downtown combined with some sort of TIF. I had even heard that you could use CDBG funds for this.

    Any input is appreciated about how one can recruit a grocery store? Namely, one that fits.

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    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    The best way is to have the rooftops and provide market assessment data supporting a finding that they can survive (and profit).

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    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hawkeye66 View post
    Our town is a small town with few retail services. We have a convenience store and that is about it. "Big Box" Grocers are just 10-12 miles away or so. Yet, there is a desire to have a grocery store in town. I realize that none of the big chains will look at us at this point. I was thinking of trying to recruit someone who might have something in between a conveniece store and full service grocery store. We are going to offer suspended zoning standards possible for a site in our old downtown combined with some sort of TIF. I had even heard that you could use CDBG funds for this.

    Any input is appreciated about how one can recruit a grocery store? Namely, one that fits.
    Hy-Vee is based in Iowa. Have you looked at them, or are they part of the retail center 10 - 12 miles away? Maybe a 35 to 40K sq. ft. store could work there.
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    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    The Boston Redevelopment Authority would often require/encourage groceries/supermarkets as part of competetive proposals for the redevelopment of city-owned property. It worked well. The city went from <5 groceries/supermarkets in the 1980s to well over 20 today.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Surely there msut be a rough range (X-Y people within a Z-minute drive/walk of the place) that can sustian a small / mediumn / large grocery store?

    This development has a 'general store' (see at http://www.historicalconcepts.com/commercial_works.html)

    Or were you thinking of soemthign larger?
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    There are grocery store chains that build smaller stores and/or tend to locate in small towns. Often, these are regional entities. You could start by looking for your state grocers association.

    Another option to consider -- though it might take more effort in getting started -- is a community-owned store. Stacy Mitchell discusses this concept in her book Big Box Swindle, but there's also an article here:

    Community-Owned Stores Provide Alternative

    Saranac Lake, NY is going through the process of developing a community store. I believe it will be more of a department store than a grocery store, but the project website has a lot of useful information, including FAQs, links to studies/reports about community stores, etc.

    Saranac Lake Community Store Website

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    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess View post
    There are grocery store chains that build smaller stores and/or tend to locate in small towns. Often, these are regional entities. You could start by looking for your state grocers association.

    Another option to consider -- though it might take more effort in getting started -- is a community-owned store. Stacy Mitchell discusses this concept in her book Big Box Swindle, but there's also an article here:

    Community-Owned Stores Provide Alternative

    Saranac Lake, NY is going through the process of developing a community store. I believe it will be more of a department store than a grocery store, but the project website has a lot of useful information, including FAQs, links to studies/reports about community stores, etc.

    Saranac Lake Community Store Website
    What MP suggested is the direction I would also point you to.....I will add to look at the co-opt side of this. I believe there are small towns in the Dakotas that have opened these types of community resources.
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  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I am certainly a fan of community-supported stores in the right location, but I doubt it would be the right fit where you are. The number of people in your market, the dographic make-up of that market, and competition from elsewhere will determine what you can get.

    The independent grocer is dying off at a quick pace, but it is not out of the question for an existing business to expand to carry a selection of groceries. In small, rural locations which cannot support a full-scale store, I usually point to examples where the local gas/convenience store adds 2-3000 square feet with some additional groceries, fresh produce, and meat.

    Pharmacies have become more than just drug dispensers. Prescriptions now make up less than hald of nearly all of the chain store business. Look at their front-end and you will see a good selection of groceries in some of these stores.

    Chain grocers will adopt different positioning strategies. Some prefer to only be in the community/destination market and won't consider a small town. Others look to a locational strategy which positions their stores to "cut-off" traffic headed to the larger neighbor.

    There are other formats which sometimes choose rural locations. The fresh market concept can work if there is enough local support. Demographics and customer habits will determine this. The low-cost, high-volume approach of companies like Aldi is another possibility.
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    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    "Pharmacies have become more than just drug dispensers. Prescriptions now make up less than hald of nearly all of the chain store business. Look at their front-end and you will see a good selection of groceries in some of these stores".

    This is what I hate about the Walgreens, Rite-Aids, CVS and Duane Reades of the world. I don't hate them per se, it's the fact they're replacing supermarkets in 'inner-city' areas. It's happening all across the country. The former Mayor of Baltimore made it an initiative of his to get more full-service grocery markets in the City. I can think of at least 7-10 new supermarkets, albeit two chains, that opened in the City when he was Mayor. Maybe some of the supermarket chains' CFO's don't realize that they make more money per square foot in an urban market than they do in a suburban market, because of lack of choices that are available in urban areas.
    I am recognizing that the voice inside my head
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    Because opinions are like voices we all have a different kind". --Q-Tip

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    I agree with you, North Omaha Star. The grocery selection in these drugstores isn't that much better that what you find in most convenience stores.

    Aldi is a good example of a small grocery store. It has a limited selection, but seems to work well in small towns, villages and cities. In my area, we also have a few locally-owned grocery stores that have some sort of arrangement with Hannaford, a large regional supermarket chain... Hannaford may serve as a supplier under that arrangement, though I'm not certain.

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    In the "Twin Tiers" of southwestern NY and northwestern PA where the population is very thin outside the small cities and even smaller small towns, independent grocery stores seem to have returned because the bigger grocery chains sold or moved out. A lot of these stores are affiliated with bigger chains as suppliers but the stores are locally owned. Others are parts of "mini-chains" of two or three store chains owned by local people. These independents have become "general stores", offering not only a full line of groceries, including meats, produce, deli, and bakery but also gasoline, take-out (pizza, wings, subs), videos, and even hunting licenses, ammo, etc.

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Something along those lines was built last summer across from my subdivision in SC. I moved before it opened but had the opportunity to visit it when I was there for Christmas and I was impressed. The SE is full of Wal-Marts but often the cost of time/distance/patience that is entailed in visiting it doesn't make it worth it for small things. The store is called Bloom and it is an off shoot of Food Lion. It's small, but has a good selection of everyday items and specialty items and a nice produce/prepared food section as well without Fresh Market or Whole Food's pricetag. http://www.shopbloom.com/
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    Cyburbian joshking2's avatar
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    I have absolutley no experience in this, but what about a farmers Co-op thing. If your a small town, surely you have farmers nearby. Truly farm fresh produce that benefits the farmers? Am I way out in left field with this one?

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    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Well, in Iowa we are talking about people who are either cattle farmers, run hog confinements (You don't see pigs on farms anymore folks, they spend their entire lives in a building), or bulk commodities like feed/mill corn or soybeans. Not a lot of produce is grown in Iowa. You do have some organic and vegetable farmers in some parts. They normally have their Farmer's Market once a week on Saturday mornings to sell their stuff.

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    Cyburbian joshking2's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hawkeye66 View post
    Well, in Iowa we are talking about people who are either cattle farmers, run hog confinements (You don't see pigs on farms anymore folks, they spend their entire lives in a building), or bulk commodities like feed/mill corn or soybeans. Not a lot of produce is grown in Iowa. You do have some organic and vegetable farmers in some parts. They normally have their Farmer's Market once a week on Saturday mornings to sell their stuff.
    Ohhhh.. I'm a city boy, does it show? I always picture farms as the Old McDonald type with pastures and gardens. I guess thats not really the case. Hmmmm.. rethinking the rural development job I applied to.

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    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Yeah, but upstate NY is different than Iowa.

    I drove through the Finger Lakes region last year on my way back from the Iowa-Syracuse game. The agriculture there is a lot different. Yes, there is some corn growing. But, there are also grape vinyards and a more diverse sector in general.

    Ag is big big business here in the midwest.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hawkeye66 View post
    Yeah, but upstate NY is different than Iowa.

    I drove through the Finger Lakes region last year on my way back from the Iowa-Syracuse game. The agriculture there is a lot different. Yes, there is some corn growing. But, there are also grape vinyards and a more diverse sector in general.

    Ag is big big business here in the midwest.
    Agriculture is a big business here in NYS as well. It's the 1st or 2nd biggest industry in the state, and is primarily dairy, although there are significant truck farming (produce) areas on the lake plains from north and west of Syracuse over to Buffalo and then south along Lake Erie to the PA state line. Because NYS is fairly populous, there are a lot of part-time farmers who work in factories or other businesses and farm "on the side", probably a lot more than in Iowa. They tend to raise beef cattle, hay, and produce for sale at local farm stands.

    Being a farmer's daughter (and from a long line of farming folks), I never buy produce in the grocery stores when I can get it fresh at the local stands. The problem is that, even when you live in an area where farmstands are convenient and numerous, the produce is very seasonal, not all stands carry the same fruits and vegetables, and they don't carry other products. In other words, farm stands can't replace grocery stores. On the other hand, a local grocery store can be a good outlet for local farmers to sell produce to townspeople who might not drive out their way.

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hawkeye66 View post
    Ag is big big business here in the midwest.
    And then again...

    Iowa is the #1 producer of organic pigs
    #2 in acres of organic corn and soybeans
    #4 in acres of organic oats
    #4 in organic broiler hens and turkeys
    #5 in organic layer hens
    #6 in acres of organic dry peaas and lentils, and flax
    #6 in organic beef cows
    #7 in acres of small organic mixed vegetable farms
    #8 in acres of organic buckwheat
    #8 in organic sheep and lambs
    #9 in acres of organic barley, sunflowers, and silage

    (2005 data)
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    Cyburbian joshking2's avatar
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    Dollar General Market.

    Recently DG launched a new store model with fresh food stuffs.
    http://www.dollargeneral.com/ourstores/DGMarket.aspx

    I don't know how well or where they are interested in opening new stores, but Its a thought.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Thanks

    Dollar General stores are a little different than a full service grocery. There is one in the suburb close to us. They did cross my mind.

    Actually, there is a small regional privately held company that I contacted, and the owner had some initial interest so we will see where this goes. If this works out good, this would be a great anchor for our downtown revitalization.

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    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hawkeye66 View post
    Dollar General stores are a little different than a full service grocery. There is one in the suburb close to us. They did cross my mind.
    He is talking about Dollar General Market, not Dollar General. It is a different format with more fresh food and groceries.

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    Cyburbian gicarto's avatar
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    My office just got a request to give a revolving loan for a community grocery store in a town of 700. As of right now, I don't know what to think about it with the big town only 25 miles away. I think they would be able to carry the basics. It would be good for the elderly that remain in the town.
    Trying to get my grubby hands on as much stimulus money as I can.:D

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    Cyburbian
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    I remember thinking these guys were doing some neat work. . .obvioulsy in an urban setting rather than a small town setting. . .

    and wiht more of a public health bent. . .

    http://www.thefoodtrust.org/php/prog...t.campaign.php

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    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gicarto View post
    My office just got a request to give a revolving loan for a community grocery store in a town of 700. As of right now, I don't know what to think about it with the big town only 25 miles away. I think they would be able to carry the basics. It would be good for the elderly that remain in the town.
    I would assume the store has a business plan you can review in conjunction with the loan application, no?

  25. #25
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    I have heard of several of these kind of attempts in Iowa. They generally never work. Here is my theory:

    Most folks, both town dwellers and rural residents (including the farmers) have a family member who works in a larger town. In the larger town is the larger store, so it's easy to stop by on the way home from work. The small town store ends up carrying little more than convenience items because the products do not turn over quickly enough. The local store ends up with higher prices, less selection, and expiring product because the local folks end up shopping elsewhere.

    I have seen this happen 3-4 times in Iowa with the same result.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
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