Last Saturday, Feb. 21, a group of about 25 people met in Davenport at South Maple Street to weigh options for opening a grocery store for the village. The previous market closed last November. Two smaller meetings were held for planning before this third larger meeting was called. Donna Vorce, a Davenport resident who works at Plains Tree Farm is helping to organize the effort.
“We want to get the community involved and hear people’s concerns and suggestions,” said Vorce.
By the end of the meeting, three groups were formed: one to explore the financial/business logistics, a second to search for possible physical locations in the village and a third to focus on outreaching to other local markets. Vorce is on the committee to find potential locations for the store.
“There are currently three buildings on the table,” said Vorce.
One is the building where the previous grocery store was. A second is a building by the community center on the west side of the street. The third, if no other options are available, is the north section of the South Maple Street business.
The group plans to base the new store off of one (or several) of Kansas State rural grocery initiative business models: co-op, community owned, independently owned or school run.
More information can be found at ruralgrocery.org.
The group is focused on forming either a co-op or a community owned store if independent grocers are not interested in opening a market in Davenport.
A co-op can be done several ways. One way is if the store would co-op with another local grocery store to share expenses and help meet weekly minimum purchase requirements from wholesale grocers. A customer owned co-op means customers would pay for a membership to get the lowest prices. Members could also contribute physically or financially.
A community owned store would mean the store would be community supported and community owned with paid staff assisted by a volunteer board of directors. The school run model would utilize volunteer labor from upper grade business students. The market is assisted by this additional labor and the students learn first hand how business functions.
Personally, Vorce hopes to find ways to employ elements from all four models. Perhaps working with another independent market to share expenses yet have the community of Davenport own the store; by exploring varying levels of investment to customers to encourage ownership.
“I would like to put the idea of a not-for-profit market into the discussions. Money coming in to the market beyond expenses of staff and maintenance would be plowed back into the market for enhancements and other projects to build an interesting shopping environment.”
Vorce sees having young business students participate in their community as an exciting option.
To get more feedback, a questionnaire will be distributed to Davenport residents to find out more about the specific needs of the townspeople.
Ideas are being considered as to how to fund the project such as fundraising, selling shares, accepting donations, selling t-shirts and caps, a community sale and federal and state grants. The cost is estimated to be about $75,000-$100,000 to prepare the space for the new enterprise.
Despite the costs, Vorce, however, believes that bringing a grocery store back to Davenport is important to the future of the village.
“If people leave Davenport to get groceries, they’re not just going to go to get groceries,” said Vorce. “They are going to do other things there too. Other businesses will be affected by this.”
The next meeting will be Saturday March 14 at 10 a.m. at South Maple Street. The groups will reconvene to give their updates. Vorce hopes to compare layouts of the buildings they are considering and give people an idea of their options.
“All who eat are welcome to show up,” said Vorce. “Bring your ideas.”