Tampa’s community-owned grocery plans Saturday opening


TampaGroceryMonicaSvoboda7675
TampaGroceryMonicaSvoboda7675
After two years of planning, Trail Stop Inc., a 1,500 square-foot community-owned grocery store, is having a “soft” opening Saturday in Tampa.

“This has been in the process for quite awhile,” said David Mueller, one of the eight volunteer committee members who worked to bring in the store.

Monica Svoboda, store manager, said Trail Stop will offer competitive prices and many of the same products as other grocery stores in the area.

“We are going to have everything or just about everything you can have—bread, milk, meat, cheese, canned goods, dry goods, condiments, beverages, paper products, tobacco and (3.2 percent) beer,” Svoboda said.

The committee is still working on its cigarette permit.

Community convenience

Svoboda said her family goes through about two gallons of milk a week.

“I think I have made two trips just for milk this week,” she said. “We are 20-plus miles away from the nearest town and if someone needs a gallon of milk or loaf of bread, they are using gas and their time.”

Connie McMahan, a committee member who keeps track of stock and does research on technical issues, said Tampa has a number of young families with children living.

“One family needs 10 gallons of milk each week for six children,” she said, “and senior citizens need something more local because they can’t be driving these roads, particularly in the winter.”

The committee realized no independently owned grocery store would consider coming to Tampa.

“The town is too small,” McMahan said. “Tampa wouldn’t support an independently owned store.”

Mueller said the last grocery store in Tampa faded out 10 years ago. Tampa’s population is about 140 people. Based on a survey of residents, a majority wanted a grocery store, McMahan said.

Raising capital

McMahan said initially 200 shares were issued for the store.

“We have already sold 174 shares at $100 a share, but that includes (a $50) first-year membership.”

Tampa residents, she said, provided “huge support” for the grocery store by buying stocks.

“We had to come up with cash and stock sales were for inventory.”

Another key reason the committee offered shares was to create loyalty, McMahan said.

“When people own something, they want to make it work,” she said.

The committee is undecided about issuing more shares at a stockholders’ meeting. McMahan said if they need the shares, they will do it.

“Initially, we had to sell 100 shares to make the store work,” she said, “and we did that in the first week.”

Extra incentives will also be given to anyone with a membership, plus it keeps the store funded, she said.

One of the store’s distributors will supply canned goods, bread and other non-refrigerated items.

Mueller said milk and other dairy products will be supplied by Hiland Dairy; meats will be distributed by Krehbiels Specialty Meats in McPherson; eggs will arrive from Klenda Eggs in Lincolnville; mustard will come from Grannie’s Homemade Mustard in Hillsboro; Jason Wiebe Dairy in Durham will provide cheese; Cash­way Distributors will deliver snacks and tobacco products.

“We are trying to use local suppliers as much as we can,” Svoboda said.

The store also will carry frozen pizzas, burritos, frozen vegetables and other items available in a grocery store.

The store will stock at least one name brand and a generic brand, some name-brand cereals, McMahan said.

“We will have Cheerios, Honey-Nut Cheerios, oatmeals and generic brands, plus baking products, some spices, flour and sugar,” she said.

Mueller said the only way the store will work is by keeping costs low, staying competitive and keeping loyal customers.

“If (Tampa residents) want to keep the store, they have got to support it from their side; from our side, we need to keep costs down,” he said.

So far, about one-fourth of the non-perishable inventory is at the store; the other three-fourths was expected to arrive Tuesday.

Background

In early June, McMahan and two other committee members, Michele Berens and Amber Peterson, along with Teresa Huffman, Marion County economic development director, attended a two-day summit at Kansas State University on creating a grocery store.

McMahan said, “They told us different ways to create a grocery store as non-profit, profit, community-owned, independently-owned or membership and non-membership.”

Chris Costello was serving on the group’s advisory board. McMahan said he advised them to look at non-profit as the way to go.

The survey also assisted the committee as to whether the community would support the store, hours of operation, how many people were in a household and how much money people spent each week.

As for the name, Trail Stop, Mueller said Leo Yanda, also on the committee, came up with the idea.

“Leo is a retired mechanical engineer and very precise,” he said. “He laid out the shelves and got us organized. Everyone has a niche and a role.”

Other committee members included Danny Williamson, who has been working on meat suppliers and the register bookkeeping end of it.

Peterson, who also runs the cafe, works on inventory and with distributors.

“Kris and Jim Srajer worked on this for two years,” he said. “They have children and she works online taking care of the books.”

Berens, a teacher in Hills­boro, is the committee secretary. Her husband, Greg, installed cabinetry.

Other businesses

In addition to Trail Stop, two other businesses have opened.

David and Catarina Rziha, who originally served on the start-up team for the grocery store, opened a fitness center Aug. 1.

The other business, a beauty shop, was scheduled to open Sept. 18, with Cassandra Clem­mer as owner and operator.

“It says a lot about Tampa folks,” McMahan said about the new businesses.

Located at 319 Main St., Trail Stop’s hours will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays; and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays.

Store hours were chosen to parallel residents’ schedules. Svoboda said they may expand the hours if it seems advantageous.

The store will be managed by an all-volunteer staff. There are no plans to hire a paid employee.


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