Mom & Pop Groceries: A Crisis in Rural America

The New York Times: “R&R Market — the oldest business in Colorado, built by descendants of Spanish conquistadors … is in danger, at the edge of closing just as rural groceries from Maine to California face similar threats to their existence … Across the country, mom-and-pop markets are among the most endangered of small-town businesses … The phenomenon is a ‘crisis’ that is turning America’s breadbaskets into food deserts … erasing a bedrock of local economies just as rural communities face a host of other problems.”

“The market was built in 1857 by José Dario Gallegos … who turned his store into a hub. His descendants have operated it since, filling the shelves with vegetables, locally grown bolita beans and hand-packed chiles.” His great-great-grandson, Felix Romero, and his wife, Claudia “offer food on credit, supply baptisms and funerals, cash checks, issue hunting licenses, pay local taxes. But they are exhausted. And yearning to retire.” However: “Those who want to take on these stores can find it impossible to buy. If you’re poor — and many people in these towns are — and interested in a risky deal, few banks will give you a loan.”

“In recent years, some communities have united to save their grocery. In Walsh, Colo.; Iola, Kan.; and Anita, Iowa, residents rescued their markets by forming cooperatives or public-private partnerships … Here in San Luis, the Romeros are trying to sell their market and six upstairs apartments for $600,000, half of what an appraiser gave as its value … Now, Mr. Romero is making peace with the fact that the shop could pass out of the family under his watch. If it stays open at all.”

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