St. John Grocery Store Closing

Located in Stafford County with a population of just under 1,300, St. John, Kan., is the latest small town facing the closing of its only grocery store. Kroger announced on Jan. 22 that it would close the town’s Dillon’s, located on East 4th Avenue. With the nearest store 13 miles away in Great Bend, the residents of St. John are left facing difficult prospects.

Carolyn Dunn, Executive Director of Economic Development in Stafford County, said the biggest concern is the ripple effect the store’s closing will have on the town. “As you travel west of St. John, the closest grocery store is in Kinsley, which is 40 miles away. So we have a couple of little communities west of us who really did depend on Dillon’s... you’re looking at probably 60 miles of a food desert without a grocery store.

There are other apprehensions facing the town as well, Dunn said. If people aren’t coming into town to do their grocery shopping, they won’t shop at other stores in the town. Real estate values could also be affected if people worry about food availability where they live. Additionally, there are the consequences of direct job loss when a grocery store closes.

Dunn said the community has responded, and many people have come together, offering to buy groceries at stores outside of St. John for those who can’t make the lengthy drive. St. John also utilizes a bus service a couple of times a week to make sure its citizens have access to a grocery store.

Dunn says that the overall population of St. John and its outside communities speak to the buying power of the area. “We’re in a town with much more business to sustain something,” she said

A similar situation occurred in Onaga, Kan., when residents lost their grocery store to a fire in 2010. Financial strategy was key in bringing the store back to the town of 700, and that is what Dunn believes needs to take place in St. John. Today, Onaga’s grocery store is thriving, and many are hoping for a similar success story for St. John.

For more information on the economic developments of Stafford County, please visit www.staffordecodevo.com.