Friday, January 22, 2010

Speaking of downtown grocery stores . . .

This month's issue of the College Hill Commoner has a story on p. 5 titled "Bus Station Bodega," about Ray Sales Co., located at 206 S. Emporia. It's mostly a human-interest story, though it also contains some wistfulness about how the business will change now that the Intrust Arena is a going concern and WDDC is getting revved up. (Ray's has been there almost 40 years; "funky" is a pretty apt description of the place, judging from the article, so something is bound to change.) At any rate, for those of you persuaded of the need for small corner grocery stores' inclusion in mixed-use developments and older parts of town, and for those of you wondering how new downtown development will affect the area's character and its long-time business people, this story is well worth your time, I think.

As for such a store's capacity for community building, how's this for a quote: "'We get all kinds in here,' [Rusty Johnson, one of the workers] says. 'Most are nice. Every once in a while you'll get somebody who's having a bad day or off their meds, but it hasn't happened in a while.'"


Karen in Wichita said...

Barney's is much the same way, and is in some ways our biggest *obstacle* to putting a grocery in Delano. Because, you see, whatever we do we can't let it damage the Riffels' or George's businesses. Gaining grocery service in Delano at the cost of losing it in Sunflower/Indian Hills is no gain, really.

Plus, it's not quite as "funky" as Ray's, but go sit in the pharmacy waiting chairs and people-watch sometime. There's a community there.

I'm trying to figure out how to get them to open a satellite place in (probably southeast) Delano that is both profitable and retains that community.

John B. said...

Thanks for commenting, Karen. Apologies for the delay in responding, but I couldn't formulate a decent comment.

I understand Barney's anxiety. (I've never visited there; I'll have to drop by.) If this part of town were more densely built up, we wouldn't be having this conversation--indeed, they'd see expansion as distinctly to their advantage and/or wouldn't fear a competitor nearly as much. But I don't see how another small grocery would seriously hurt their business. It would be a neighborhood store, after all. In a downtown of around 3,000 permanent residents, I'd think three or four smallish but well-stocked stores would do well.

Karen in Wichita said...

(There was a delay?)

Barney's seems that awkward in-between size... too big to be a neighborhood store, too small to be a destination store. I suspect it succeeds due to a number of factors chiefly revolving around the pharmacy side.

A true neighborhood store would be less of a threat (especially as we get the east-of-Seneca area infill going) but then that gets into the downside of those true neighborhood stores: bodega pricing.

I oversimplify (probably more than I yet know) in both of these posts, but it's going to be a complicated issue.

And one I'll be learning about a whole lot more shortly: the steering committee met yesterday and signed the paperwork incorporating the Delano Community Development Corporation as a Kansas non-profit. (I got whisked off on a spontaneous road-trip to Stillwater (long story) right after the meeting, so I haven't written up the formal announcement yet, but I'll get that out on DW today.)