A source of pride in Stapleton

Pure Nebraska
Published: Apr. 10, 2023 at 10:10 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 10, 2023 at 10:17 AM CDT
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STAPLETON, Neb. (KOLN) - During a recent visit to the Logan County seat, we learned the local grocery store there truly contributes to a good quality of life.

You could say the Stapleton Cooperative Market and Deli is a *staple” in the community. “Most of the people that come in are very thankful that we are here,” store manager Pam Schaeffer said. “That’s because otherwise, they would have to drive 30 miles to the store to get their groceries, and they don’t want to do that.” Having a local store is especially helpful to seniors in the community. “We help them out with their groceries. So, it’s a lot less stressful.”

The store is a cooperative, which means the store is not owned by a company, but by community members. “This means we have 160 community members and Stapleton alumni that actually own the store,” Schaeffer said. “We are operated by a board. Then it comes down to me being the manager.” The town knows what it’s like to go without a store like this. “We had a grocery store for a while and the lady that owned it was elderly,” Schaeffer said. “She was 94. She sold it, and there was about 18 months when we were without a grocery store, and it really hurt. None of us want to see it close again.”

Tom Johnson is the president of the market and deli board. He says the store is a great place to shop, but an important goal for the board is to get more local people to use it. “The biggest challenge is getting our shareholders and our community to use it and use it all the time,” Johnson said. “I realize there are specialty items and stuff you can’t get here all the time, but for the basics, it’s all here.” Board members are always thinking about ways to get more people to use the store. “We have a committee working on that right now, to figure out things that can improve.”

The community-owned concept is something that seems to be gaining popularity in small towns around the state. Experts with the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center are seeing the trend. The organization serves as a resource to get cooperatives started in small towns. “We’ll help communities from getting an idea, getting a steering team together, to technical systems and resources in the formation,” NCDC representative Charlotte Narjes said. “The grocery store challenges in Nebraska are real right now. So many of the owners are transitioning. Just to give an example, in the last three years, we’ve had more than 20 inquiries, and not everyone forms a cooperative. But they are trying to figure out how to transition, and what they are going to do.”

Towns like Hay Springs, Lynch, and Emerson are a few of the towns that have cooperative grocery stores. Stapleton is also on the list. And there’s much more than just groceries at the Stapleton Cooperative Market and Deli. “We have the deli where we do sub sandwiches, made with hoagie buns,” Schaeffer said. “They are made to order. And then, we have our hot coffees, our lattes, cappuccinos, all that good stuff, and we have the iced coffees, and smoothies and slushies in the summer time.”

All of this adds up to a better quality of life in Stapleton. The hope is the store will continue to serve the community, and more people will choose to stop in town. At the store, shopping is made easy, and the customer service is hard to beat. The manager hopes people remember one thing when going for groceries, and that is, to “Support local!” she said.