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Report: Corner Stores Vanishing in WYO

November 10, 2010

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - A quick run to the corner store is an errand no longer possible in many rural areas of Wyoming as small grocery stores disappear.

Two new studies from the Center for Rural Affairs explore the trend. They examine why small-town stores are important for access to healthy foods - and keeping rural economies healthy - as well as strategies that can help stores be successful. Jon Bailey, who directs the center's rural research and analysis program, studied different ownership models and discovered some that have seen more success than traditional, independently-owned operations.

"We've seen cooperative efforts work in some places. There's some examples of community schools that have started grocery stores, student-run grocery stores, community-owned grocery stores."

Bailey says no matter the model, a certain population level, about 3,500, is needed for a store's success - and because rural communities are shrinking, it's tougher for small grocers to succeed.

Another factor at play in the vanishing local store is that shoppers' preferences have changed, and chain grocery stores can offer better prices for those who can make a trip to a bigger town. However, Bailey notes that travel is not always possible.

"If it is 20, 30 or 40 or more miles away, then you have some access. But some people don't, and it's much harder for other people."

Downsides to small stores closing, according to Bailey, include a loss of tax revenue – and a loss of character, because stores are often community gathering places. The reports, "Rural Grocery Stores: Importance and Challenges," and "Rural Grocery Stores: Ownership Models that Work," are online at www.cfra.org.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - WY