New ownership initiative keeps grocery store in Canton

Canton?s Circle S IGA grocery store will continue serving community and area patrons as Canton Grocery LLC, thanks to the initiative of owner Orville Koehn and some 20 local investors. xMalinda Just / Free Press

In September a going-out-of-business sign was posted in the window of Circle S IGA in Canton. By October, Orville Koehn, an employee of about three years at the grocery store, was in the process of purchasing the business from former owner John Shearer.

?I just felt like we needed a store in town,? Koehn said. ?Canton has treated us well. That was the main reason I wanted to keep the store open.?

Koehn said many people frequent the store on their way home from work, and it was important to provide a grocery service for them.

?Many workers come through from McPherson, from Hesston in the afternoon and they want to do a little shopping before they go home,? he said. ?I just feel like we provide a good service for them here.

?It looks like we?re living in a time where people just buy groceries for the day because we have regular customers that come in every day,? Koehn said. ?I want to be here for those people on a daily basis.?

Koehn officially opened the store as Canton Grocery LLC on Dec. 4 with about 20 investors backing the operation.

Trevin Prieb, one of the investors in the partnership, said it was important for Canton to have a store.

?Our community needs a grocery store, and I felt it was a good investment,? he said.

Soon after the partnership took over the business, an ice storm hit Kansas, knocking out power across the state, including Canton.

?In Canton at 4:30 in the morning we lost our electricity and then we started up on the 14th,? Koehn said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends throwing out frozen items that have been at 41 degrees for four hours or more. Because of the power outage, Koehn was forced to discard $13,000 worth of frozen items.

?That was a tough start,? he said. ?We had to throw our frozen stuff away, but things are pretty normal now I think. We?re pretty well up and going.?

Purchasing the business wasn?t an easy process either, Koehn said.

?It was real hectic,? he said. ?I had to change the store (code) number and there?s been so many things that I?ve had to change.?

Despite the hassles, Koehn said he wants to develop a successful store for the community. While he plans to keep many things the same as before, there are some changes he will implement, starting with the addition of Daylight Donuts.

?They?ll be fresh six days a week,? he said. ?They?ll be delivering early in the morning from Hesston.?

Canton Grocery will also offer hot meals six days a week, something Circle S IGA did occasionally. Meals will not be served on Sunday.

In addition to hot meals, the store also makes pizzas through Hunt Brothers Pizza. Koehn said the store offers pizza by the slice as well as whole pizzas.

The store will also begin taking large meat orders by spring.

?People have been asking for meat boxes with so much hamburger, so many steaks, roasts and the like?and I?m going to see if I can?t get developed to where we can do that,? Koehn said. ?They can just order what they want and then I?ll put it together for them.?

Also, for customers unable to leave their homes due to health reasons, Koehn offers home delivery.

?We have quite a few older people here,? Koehn said. ?I have a delivery service to those who are house-bound and can?t get out. We deliver groceries to quite a few people in town here.

?It?s rewarding to me. They?re really appreciative of it and it gives me a chance to visit with them.?

Koehn said he hopes the changes will have a lasting effect on the city of Canton.

?It?s been real positive so far and I want to continue that,? he said. ?With the last month we?ve had good business and I appreciate the Canton people. I?m hoping that it?s able to keep.

?I can keep the store open if they keep doing business with me,? he added. ?That?s my goal. Hopefully, with the stockholders we can keep the store open and provide a good service in Canton.?

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