COLERIDGE, Neb. — There are bare spots on the shelves but there’s a buzz in the Coleridge Community nonetheless.
The Cedar County town of about 600 residents is very pleased to have their grocery store in the downtown area open once more.
"Talk about being excited, when I got the letter about the grocery reopening, I ran right out of the house to Regg’s office to ask about a job," Melody Storm said. She is the store’s assistant manager and jumping for joy to be working at the renovated business.
Ken’s Korner Market opened for business last week after closing its doors last June. The community was devastated. A shopping trip for groceries was 10 miles away to either of two neighboring communities and that was just not right.
Local insurance agent Regg Pehrson heard the discontent around town and knew the residents wanted the grocery back. He spearheaded a drive to gather a group of community members who were willing to be part of an investor group – a group of dedicated individuals willing to put their money where their mouth was and buy the business back to reopen.
It took a few months to organize and Pehrson said they tried to keep it local and low key. The word circulated around in town and anyone could be part of the project. There wasn’t a dollar amount required to be an investor. He said they left it wide-open, and in a few weeks, there were 70 investors of all ages, ready to be in the grocery business. In early December, a letter announced the intent to reopen the store.
"The community was very receptive, to say the least," Pehrson said smiling.
The biggest challenge for the owner group was to find a supplier to deliver groceries to stock the shelves. They could find suppliers for bread, chips and pop because these types of items are delivered frequently to convenience stores and quick stop shops.
After exhausting many avenues, a grocer in a neighboring community offered to order supplies for them if they would come to his store and pick them up. Filling the shelves is time-consuming because that local grocer has to order the supplies for his store weekly and then if there is room on the delivery truck, they squeeze in some items for Ken’s Korner Market.
"We hope to be fully stocked next week," Paula Dierks said. She is the new business’s manager and is very pleased to be part of this new venture for the residents of Coleridge. Deliveries come on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
"I’ve always been in retail and this sounded like a good opportunity," Dierks said as she left the meat department where she was training a new meat cutter. "It’s been so much fun, something different every day."
Dierks said along with all the other areas found in a small grocery, they also have a small bakery. As they open the door every morning at 8 am, customers stroll in and head straight for the freshly baked cinnamon rolls, lemon bars or brownies, and by 9:30 a.m., they are sold out. Store hours are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday.
Along with several volunteers from the community who came in and helped with getting the store up and going, there are six employees at the present time. Pehrson is sure that number will grow as the shelves are filled and they also employee some local high school students working after school and weekends. The new owners were fortunate everything was still in the 5,400-square-foot building so they were able to get up and running quickly.
Also lending a helping hand is Ken Mitchell — the Ken of Ken’s Korner Market, the community’s grocer for too many years to count. He retired about 10 years ago and has agreed to come back and offer wise words of wisdom and his skill in the meat dept.
In the future, the new grocery is interested in offering small catering services in the community and also, making grocery deliveries to those elderly residents or people who can’t leave their houses for whatever reason.
"I am so proud of this community, the way they pulled together to make this project work," Pehrson said. "And we need the community to make it work."