- Associated Press - Sunday, February 5, 2017

CLARKS, Neb. (AP) - Residents of a Merrick County village that lost its last local grocery in 2015 are considering establishing a co-op store.

An informational meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 22 at the old grocery store in Clarks. The goal: Sell $175,000 in shares for the project to continue.

After a previous grocery closed in 2011, local investors bought the Clarks building and opened Len and Jo’s Supermarket. It went out of business in 2015. Since then, residents have been patronizing the local convenience store or driving 10 miles to the nearest supermarket in Central City.

U.S. Census figures show more than one-third of rural counties have lower population now than in 1930. In addition to fewer potential customers, businesses in rural areas face stiff competition from online shopping and from urban chain stores offering big savings for those willing to drive several miles away.

Charles Fluharty, who heads the Rural Policy Research Institute at the University of Iowa, told The Associated Press late last year that he’s seen an increase in rural neighbors joining to save local spots. Some create cooperatives or seek government and private grants.

“There’s a sense of, ‘We’ve got to take care of ourselves, and that means we’ve got to take care of one another because we’re all we’ve got,’” Fluharty said.

A 2015 community survey in Clarks, a town of about 360 residents, showed 89 percent of respondents consider a grocery store to be important.

Clarks resident Janet Meyers told the Columbus Telegram (https://bit.ly/2jDm01u ) that there’s no timetable for establishing the grocery store, but she hopes the effort will move forward quickly. She said cooperative grocery stores are a way residents can invest in their communities.

“If we can’t get enough money to meet our goal, we can’t proceed,” Meyers said. “We have to have the community participation to go forward.”


Information from: Columbus Telegram, https://www.columbustelegram.com

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