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Rural Grocery Initiative

Morland Mercantile holds grand opening

During the Kansas Governor’s Ringneck Classic, Governor Sam Brownback cut the ribbon for the newly-refurbished Morland Mercantile grand opening celebration on Nov. 16. The road to the opening has been long for the citizens of Morland.

Ribon CuttingThe former owner closed the grocery store in 2006 because of declining health and age. Since opening in 1915 the store has been known as Bean’s Country Store, Steven’s Grocery, and Brook’s Store, and became a feature in the community’s history. There was no private buyer to be found, due to the small local population and state of disrepair. The community refused to let it be closed, and the Morland Community Foundation stepped in.

Faye Minium, president of the Foundation, says the plan for the store was to provide healthy food to the elderly and members of the community who choose not to travel to other stores. The Foundation, founded in 1994, has funded various development projects, but the purchase of the Mercantile is by far the biggest. With the additional help of a $140,000 Community Development Block Grant, the building was winterized, refurbished, and had a new furnace installed.

All Morland was classified within a floodplain. To get permits and insurance the land had to be reclassified. The city spent $28,000 over a year to remap and revise the flood plain boundaries. As an additional benefit all but two residences in Morland were cleared of their floodplain status.

The newly renovated building could then be filled with equipment. Despite its new remodel, most items in the Mercantile have been donated or bought used. The Foundation learned through the appliance salesman that a town 100 miles away had recently closed their grocery store. With the salesman’s help they were able to broker a deal for the used equipment. There are no barcode scanners in the Mercantile either. To save money, no electronic scanners were purchased and the cashier keys in all items by hand.

The first order of canned goods arrived Oct 22. Volunteers unloaded and stocked all the shelves. Next, fresh produce and meat will be delivered. Although the volunteers are organizing the setup of the mercantile, the store’s permanent operations will add three new jobs to the town.

“It was a neat thing,” said Minium, “everyone had fun and was enthusiastic about being there. It’s been a lot of work and a long time getting here, but I’m optimistic it will be a good project for the whole area.”

These jobs will include a qualified full-time management position. The community stressed the need for someone with training managing a grocery store. A nearby Hill City Exteriorresident Ron Radcliffe will be managing the store and has already been involved in the setup. With his eight years of management experience, he was the one who set up the shelving in the correct way.

The project of installing the meat counter in the grocery store brought another helping hand to Morland. The small grocery store meets minimum shipping orders by ordering through another Affiliated store. The Foundation investigated several potential collaborators and decided on Joslyn’s Food Center, operated by Mark Joslyn of Hoxie, Kan. When the store was having trouble with the exact dimensions of the meat counter, Joslyn drove through a blizzard to Morland to answer their construction questions himself.

“I hope we’re able to provide the service and inventory people in the community want and need, and can provide some unique projects,” said Minium.

The grocery store opened for local business on Nov. 2. Future plans for the Mercantile include adding a community kitchen where residents can make their own products to sell in the store and selling licensed local produce.