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Death of the Mom & Pop ME Grocery Store

November 10, 2010

WATERVILLE, Maine - "Big box" stores have been springing up all over Maine in the last decade, as many "mom-and-pop" grocery stores that once were plentiful have closed their doors. The smaller, rural grocery stores have disappeared from the landscape, unable to compete as cheaper prices of the major retail chains have lured consumers. Jon Bailey, director of research and analysis for the Center for Rural Affairs, has completed a study on the trend. He says when the small stores close, it changes more than the town's character.

"It has an economic development aspect to it; it has a social aspect to it. It's a gathering place for people in the community. Local residents, particularly the elderly, end up having to either go without healthy food, or travel fairly long distances."

Bailey says despite the many challenges faced by rural grocery store owners, there are several ways the stores could make a comeback, including as community co-ops and student-run stores in college and university towns. However, he cautions, it takes a village to make it work.

"A lot of the success is up to the community, to the people in the community and how dedicated and how committed they are to having this in their community."

By supporting rural grocery stores, dollars as well as jobs stay in local communities, adds Bailey. According to his report, more than half of Maine's residents live more than ten miles from a full-service grocery store. The report is online at www.cfra.org.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - ME