Disappearing Local Grocery Stores Prompts Town to Open Cooperative Grocery Store

High school students and community pull together to open cooperative grocery store after losing local grocery store.

| September/October 2014

  • Four teachers handle four classes of students at the local grade school.
    Photo by Ron Jageler
  • A map of Arthur shows just how small, yet tight-knit, the community is.
    Illustration by Nate Skow
  • Pilgrim Holiness Church was built in 1928 in Arthur and constructed of straw bales in response to the region’s dearth of trees or sod. The church is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    Photo by Ron Jageler
  • An old home was the first site of the Wolf Den Market, and then, thanks to donations, was moved to a new building.
    Photo by Ron Jageler

It’s a long way from anywhere to this cow town.

Most people take for granted that they can simply jump in the car and get a cart full of groceries for the next several days, or a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk at the supermarket. Or, even get those necessity items at the little convenience store on the corner.

Folks in Arthur, Nebraska, and from many miles around the ranching town, don’t make that assumption. Arthur’s 117 residents are 40 miles from another community. And, the 460 people in the county, mostly ranchers, likewise depend on Arthur, the only town in and the county seat of Arthur County — the least populated county in Nebraska — for essentials.

So, when the community’s small grocery store shut its doors two decades ago, it created a hardship for many residents.

Fortunately, Arthur does have a school system; it’s a good one according to those attending, their parents, and others for miles around. Enrollment is limited, but there are quality instructors for elementary through senior high students, and those instructors and high school students get full credit for their efforts to solve the grocery store dilemma.

High school business students took on the project to start a grocery store, and the Wolf Den Market opened in November 2000, says Ron Jageler, an Arthur resident since the early 1970s and the owner of Sandhills Garage, the local automotive repair shop.

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