Death of the small-town grocery store

Not every story has a happy ending.

This one for example. In 2006, the 17-year-old who saved the grocery store of Truman, Minnesota was a national hero for saving a small town’s lifeline.

“I think a grocery store is not the only important asset in the economic center, but it’s certainly a vital part of any community development program,” Graham said in 2010. “I feel I’ve had quite some success in fulfilling the need in smaller niche markets that the Hy-Vees and Fareways certainly have no interest in being in.”

Truman needs another Nick Graham.

Graham sold the store in 2008 to a gentleman who had a grocery in Elysian and Kiester. Brad Gohla figured adding a third store would increase his buying power.

Now the Truman store, along with the ones in Elysian and Kiester have closed, the Mankato Free Press reports.

The three stores, owned by Brad Gohla of Elysian, abruptly closed June 30, leaving city officials to ponder possible solutions to keep the stores operational.

Last week, bankers with a lien on the Kiester store were selling off its perishable inventory, with similar actions taking place in the other towns.

Brooks and Nusbaum said they hope the stores can remain operational by attracting new buyers or lessees. Brooks said if that doesn’t happen in Kiester she’d prefer that the city take over operation, as it did about four years ago before Gohla began leasing the building from the city.

“We’ve had a grocery store here since at least the 1880s,” Elysian city administrator Patricia Nussbaum told me this morning. She and her husband used to be in the grocery business and figure it’ll be tough to find someone to reopen a grocery there.

“There’s not much markup in groceries,” she said. “We’re in a little better shape because we have lakes here and people come in during the summer. You have to make your money in the summer.”

The nearest grocery now will be a small one in Waterville, seven miles away. Waseca and Mankato are also options. “But this one was open until 7 seven days a week,” she said.