MORAN – When the lone grocery store in Moran, Kan., (pop. 479) was on the brink of closing in May 2018, a group of individuals in and around the town came to the rescue.
The former Stub’s Market, 129 W. Randolph St., had been on the market for several years and was struggling to keep the doors open while searching for a buyer. Seeing what was at stake – the group of locals banded together and purchased the store, creating the Marmaton Market, Inc., and ensuring that the store remained open and continued to serve the community.
The Marmaton Market was one of the stops on a recent tour of Allen’s County’s rural grocery stores by participants in the Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Funders (SAFSF) Annual Forum.
The store, which uses a cooperative membership structure, is now a full-line grocery store. Under the savvy business management of General Manager Marilyn Logan, the store has secured grants to purchase new cooler and freezer storage, which has enabled it to expand its frozen meat and fresh produce offerings and provide healthier food options. The store also offers limited health and beauty, cleaning and other household items that meet the community’s needs. Curbside pickup and home delivery are also available – services that started during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More growth is on the horizon for the small-town grocer as it recently received news that it has been awarded a $140,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative to build a commercial-grade kitchen. The store intends to rent the kitchen out to the community, which Marilyn believes will bring more traffic to the store. She said the hope is that the new kitchen will allow the store to make and provide Meals on Wheels for qualified Moran residents, something that’s currently not available.
Even with the expanded offerings, The Marmaton Market faces the same challenges as any other rural grocery store. It must juggle rising operating costs and prices, while trying to keep prices in check for customers. With supply chain issues and escalating freight surcharges, it has become even more difficult and expensive to have products shipped to small towns like Moran.
Amidst those challenges, Marilyn and store staff understand the importance of keeping foot traffic coming in the doors, so they have made customer and community engagement a high priority.
The store has a lively Facebook page, with daily posts on everything from specials in the store to tying in store products and recipes with national food days. A children’s coloring contest, with ice cream from the store going to the winner, has become popular with the youngsters in town.
Marmaton Market supports local food pantries with store discounts, hosts Second Saturdays with vendors selling crafts, baked goods, and various other products, and features a farmer’s market on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month.
As a longtime Moran resident, who’s raised a family and “been cooking for 70 years,” Marilyn said she feels like she knows what local folks want. And she and her staff plan to keep providing it for them at The Marmaton Market.