by Meghan Rausch
The Rural Grocery Store Initiative is very important not only to grocery store owners, but also to the rural communities. Grocery stores are an important part of a community because they bring in money to support the community.
Mark Wellbrock is a rural grocery store owner who is also on the Rural Grocery Store Summit planning committee. Wellbrock and his wife own Jetmore Food Center in Jetmore, Kans. located in Hodgeman County which has a population of approximately 2300. During his 27 years in the grocery store business he has been in several locations and in Jetmore since 2001.
Moving to a small community has given Wellbrock a new appreciation for small town life and the importance of community loyalty. It is very important for residents to support their community by shopping at their local grocery store. This becomes difficult when residents have jobs outside of the community and do their grocery shopping at box stores that are also outside of the community.
"People no longer rely on that community for a way of life," Wellbrock said, "They want the structure and security that small town living provides for the family, but they've taken on the attitude they don't have to support the community to retain those assets. Maybe they just take them for granted." According to Wellbrock, the rural grocery store initiative brings to light just how much rural communities are taken for granted. He says it shows "that our schools, our institutions, and our grocery stores are vital pieces in keeping the values and securities that we have come to know and appreciate in tact."
The summit was a time for grocers, distributors and those interested in getting a grocery store to come together and discuss the problems rural grocery stores face. It also provided grocery store owners the opportunity to network with each other as well as with distributors and other resource providers.
Many rural grocers like Mark Wellbrock have found the summit to be an excellent networking and learning opportunity. "If we can network in settings such as these, form partnerships with institutions like Kansas State University, and have the development expertise of the Center for Engagement and Community Development we can have success where otherwise there would be failure. A collaborative spirit among government, education, business, and health and human services with positive communication is a great model for success." Wellbrock said.
Wellbrock was pleased with the event and is proud to say that the Rural Grocery Initiative started in Kansas. "It's a testimony to Kansans that we still have the drive and determination that our forefathers had when they forged this great state. We have become the national leaders in preservations of our rural heritage."
For more information visit: ruralgrocery.org.