Nancy McCloud sat in her office at the front of the B Street Market, a front corner of the building, where her desk, laden with purchase orders, invoices, and notes, gave her a view of the front of the store. She explained that she had joined a new food co-op, Infra, that allowed her to purchase products at lower rates. Whenever there was a change at the B Street Market, Nancy said with a chuckle, a rumor would quickly spread that the store was shutting down. In the present case, Nancy explained, the move to the new co-op is part of an emphasis on wellness that Nancy intended to share with the market's customers. "... in January, we'll have this line. It's a house line called Cadia [developed by Infra]," Nancy said. "There's like 107 things like canned and frozen fruit, beans, tuna fish - you know, things you would probably buy, like, every week. And then they hold the prices down really reasonably on those.... [Those] products will be comparable to ... what's in the dollar store, except they're all going to be organic or completely natural, non-GMO. Everything's non-GMO."
With respect to the dollar stores mentioned by Nancy, their rise in rural America has not gone unnoticed by researchers. At the University of Connecticut, Rigoberto Lopez, professor of agricultural and resource economics, wrote that dollar stores led to a decline in the revenues of independent local retailers and an overall 3.7% decline in employment in a community. Dollar Stores directly compete with local grocery stores due to their overlapping inventories and their use of anti-competitive pricing. This strategy undercuts independent local retailers until it drives them out of business. See Caoui, Hollenbeck, and Osborne, The Impact of Dollar Store Expansion on Local Market Structure and Food Access, Social Science Research Network (2022) (PDF Link).
As dollar stores do not carry fresh produce, eliminating independent local grocers like the B Street Market by dollar stores would also mean eliminating access to fresh produce in Torrance County, particularly for those who utilize SNAP benefits. This is no accident. In March 2016, when speaking to institutional investors, Jim Thorpe, Dollar General’s former chief merchandising officer, defined the company's target customer as a household with an income below $35,000 that utilizes government assistance. These were Dollar General's "best friends forever," Thorpe said.
I followed Nancy from one aisle to the next as she inspected her stock and explained the changes coming to the market. She said she would be bringing in healthier, eco-friendly cleaning supplies. For those with special dietary needs, Nancy said, the B Street Market would be able to make special requests and stock a list of diabetic-friendly foods. Nancy recounted going through the store with one newly diagnosed diabetic shopper who needed assistance in planning low-sugar meals.
In the produce aisle, Nancy said that not only would the new Infra product line be coming to the store, but the B Street Market would be using a new produce supplier from Albuquerque that would provide 30 to 35 different organic produce items, many of which will be from local farms and producers. Nancy said that the B Street Market would also be working to provide more produce from additional local farms. This, Nancy explained, reflects how Torrance County locals rely on the B Street market for fresh produce. "It's the only place to get fresh fruits and vegetables in 47 miles in either direction," she said.
Dollar stores, in comparison, not only do not stock fresh fruits and vegetables but view stocking healthy foods as unprofitable. See Caspi, Pelletier, Harnack, Erickson,. and Laska, Differences in healthy food supply and stocking practices between small grocery stores, gas-marts, pharmacies, and dollar stores, Public Health Nutrition, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 540-547 (2015) (link). The researchers who undertook this study surveyed dollar stores in Minnesota and found that dollar store managers were less likely to stock their stores with canned or frozen fruits and vegetables based on these beliefs.
In front of the meat counter, Nancy said she would bring more local beef, bison, chicken, lamb, and venison to the market. She also said the market would be rolling out a cherry venison sausage and grass-fed buffalo meat with ground-in heart and liver. Organ meat has experienced a resurgence due to the interest of those who partake in the Paleo diet for sports. I mentioned that this sounded much like what someone would see while shopping at Sprouts or Whole Foods. As it turns out, the B Street Market's new supplier also supplies the Sprouts chain of stores.
Nancy said that B Street Market would not change how it provides prepared meals to customers because these meals are healthier alternatives to the meals coming from big box store freezers. "We do pasta specials every week. We usually do a brisket meal every week to go, and then we have Friday dinner and Sunday brunch. And you know other specials during the week. We have a pasta meal. We do this every week. It's a pound and a half of pasta with ground beef. It's a deconstructed lasagna that we make all from scratch, and so a pound and a half goes for $9."
Nancy considers her work with B Street Market to be part of a solution to the abandonment of healthy food choices made by large corporations. "I've been trying to make a repeatable model, a business model that could be repeated in all small towns in rural America. ... I think this is something that could be repeated anywhere. Use your own local products and, you know, send your recycled waste products to, say, some local chicken farmer. Whatever, you know, it doesn't just have to be chickens."
Nancy said that, even though the new suppliers will bring in some cheaper products, the real savings will come to customers not wasting time and gas traveling to Edgewood or Belen for groceries.
Postscript: While this is not sponsored content, Nancy McCloud asked if the Mountainair Dispatch could share that the B Street Market's Facebook page had been hacked and disabled, and she asked that shoppers refer to the market's website or contact her at email@example.com or 505-847-2223. Customers can contact her using that email address or number to place an order for the B Street Market's annual Christmas dinner, taking place on December 22, 2023, from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Menu options include turkey or ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, butternut squash, green beans, a dinner roll, and pie.