Many turn to small-town markets as grocery stores struggle to keep stocked

HARPER, Kan. (KWCH) Grocery stores have struggled to keep stocked, and now many are turning to small town markets. Several store owners have recently been seeing more out-of-town faces.

While looking through her store, Sarah Orem said, “Yeah, it’s pretty bare, pretty bare. “

Sarah Orem is the manager at Hometown Food Stores in Buhler. She says in the 25 years the store has been in business, she’s never seen anything like this.

“We’re getting emails and text messages and Facebook messages from people asking if we have stuff before they drive all the way over here because they have looked everywhere else and can’t find it,” said Orem.

People are running to stock up on food and some small town grocery store owners say that other than the obvious toilet paper, there are several items that they’re struggling to keep on their shelves. Those items include bread, eggs, beef, flour and some frozen foods.

“We’ve got holes everywhere. Vinegar, potatoes, rice,” said Orem.

Pat Schrant, president of SPK Grocery, Inc. said, “The first Saturday this hit, people were coming here getting meat because they said they were out of it over in Wellington.”

The president of SPK Grocery in Harper, Pat Schrant, is seeing more traffic in his store from Wellington and Wichita.

“I’m sure the Walmart’s and the Dillon’s aren’t keeping up with what they need,” said Schrant.

“We’ve had a lot of phone calls from people in Wichita," said Orem. "They just call and ask if we have toilet paper and then as soon as we tell them no, they’re like “Ok, thank you.’”

These small grocery stores are putting limits on bulk-buying too but they hope the out of town business continues.

Schrant said, “And I hope they come out to these little towns and see what we have to offer because we have a really good meat department.”

“Maybe they’ll keep coming back. They’ll realize what we do have here,” said Orem.

Glad to be serving multiple communities through the COVID-19 pandemic, small grocers are looking forward to one-day having stocked shelves again.