Date of this Version
Cornhusker Economics June 15, 2022
Independent grocery stores, stores whose owners operate fewer than four outlets, play a vital role in Nebraska communities. These stores help ensure food access for residents, particularly in rural areas. The recent decline in Nebraska’s total number of rural grocery stores is attributed to the closure of these independent stores, which are often owned by individuals or small groups. Finding qualified, motivated owners to purchase and operate independent grocery stores presents pressing challenges for many rural communities. Despite challenges, research shows that rural Nebraska communities perceive their independent grocery store to be an important community amenity. This suggests rural communities may possess, or be willing to develop, retail grocery business models that involve community ownership when the business rationale for the store continues to exist. Rural communities may want to consider multi-ownership options (i.e., cooperatives, LLCs, interlocal agreements) as alternatives to the more traditional proprietorships. In Fall 2020, University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers surveyed Nebraska rural grocers to seek their input on perceptions and experiences of transitioning a rural grocery store to new ownership, be it privately owned, multi-ownership or community, cooperatively owned. Questions pertained to challenges and opportunities owners experienced while operating a rural grocery business, community support and involvement with store transition, and motivations for continued operation or transition. In-person and electronic interviews were also conducted with cooperatively owned store owners and private store owners. They provided a more in-depth analysis of experiences with business transition and new ownership models.