When the big Wal-Mart has already run the little chain grocery store out of business, is there any chance that a totally independent, locally-run grocery could compete? Yes.
Alva, Oklahoma. Population just under 5000. My hometown.
In 2002, the last grocery store in town, Homeland, locked its doors, leaving only the Wal-Mart Supercenter in the grocery business. The local manager of that Homeland didn’t stand still. He immediately worked to bring in a new chain. I have no idea how many different chains he met with. None of them would touch Alva, not with a Supercenter for competition.
Then the manager and his wife convinced each other to try it on their own.
Are you kidding? The chains knew it wouldn’t work. They were smart to stay away. How could these locals go it alone against the behemoth?
But they weren’t alone. They had the support of a bigger group of locals. The local tech center helped with a three year plan, a local lender was right there supporting the financing. Other economic and business development groups were deeply involved. Volunteers helped haul in equipment. People walked in to help get the store ready. One day as they scrambled towards opening, 23 people were working, and only four were on the payroll. Read the re-opening story in the Alva Review-Courier.
They will sack your groceries and carry them out to your car. They offer cooked meals at lunch time. A local barbecue artist smokes meat on weekends. Local and regional products, from cheese to candles, are for sale next to national brands.
It’s working. Despite everyone who said it wouldn’t. (I’ll admit, that includes me.) Despite the up and down economy. Despite the tight labor supply. Despite it all. It’s working.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.