Buege: See sometimes now, when I run out with something, then I have to make a sign on the door, back this and this time because I have to go, rush to Rushford and pick something up.Around the corner at the community center, senior citizens gathering for lunch and an intimate game of bingo also feel the loss of their local grocery.
Denzer: Some people think it's a store where you get strange foods, exotic things like tofu or bean sprouts. And those are all right things for people who want them but there isn't much demand for tofu and bean sprouts here, so we're not going to have them at the outset. If demand grows, I suppose we'll get bean sprouts and tofu.Denzer says the board plans to hire a professional manager who will respond to the desires of customers. He also wants to get produce and eventually meat from local farmers.
Stone: If you have a small town that loses its last grocery store, the people in that town no longer have a choice. They have to go somewhere to shop for the basic necessities of life and when they go ostensibly to shop for groceries, you can bet they buy other things that they typically would have bought in their own hometown. So it starts becoming the death knell for many of the other businesses in the small town.Houston used to have four grocery stores and three car dealerships 20 years ago, before Interstate 90 was built 10 miles north of town. The population has held steady at about 1,000 but the number of businesses on Main Street is down to a handful. Co-op board member Peter Denzer says Houston residents realize the importance of the store and are employing a sophisticated marketing plan.
Denzer: We are not country bumpkins. And I think that's important for people who are outside of small towns to realize, small towns have a very deep and important culture. I think the roots of democracy are right here in small towns and we have to save those small towns. That's part of our mission I think.Denzer and his neighbors plan to open the Root River Market for business early next year. Residents hope the store and an extension of the Root River bike trail to Houston next year will keep the town alive.