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'It takes a village': Manson grocery store reopens as nonprofit

A year ago, the community lost its only grocery store. But it's back up and operating again, and with a new mission.

MANSON, Iowa — Rural iowa communities are rich with deep roots and community pride, but they are also struggling to keep people from moving away to urban cities. 

That makes it difficult for businesses that depend on a steady flow of customers. But that doesn't mean things have to shut down

If a little elbow grease goes a long way, you'd be amazed what an entire town can do. 

The Manson community lost its only grocery store a year ago.

"It wasn't an ultimate shock when the grocery store closed because it went away slowly," said Mayor Dave Anderson. "But when it finally left everyone was like - now what do we do?" 

Initially, neighbors got creative, making a Facebook page to ask around and see who needs what.

But there's only so much before the burden of borrowing turns into something bigger a town this size is trying to fix

"I don't think you can grow a small rural community, at all, without a grocery store," Anderson said. 

"It's kind of the hub."

A few months after the doors closed, some neighbors came up with the idea to bring it back.

It started with a small group of people now known as the Manson Grocery Store Committee. 

After cleaning and renovating the building, it was the former school superintendent coming out of retirement to lead the way for Manson Hometown Grocery.

"Being the retired one with some time on my hands, I was made board president which led to working with volunteers and skilled people to make this happen," said Mark Egli.

Father and sons, husbands and wives volunteering their time—top to bottom—to bring the old building back to life. 

And with a unique business model

"This is the first nonprofit grocery store in the state of Iowa as far as I know," Mayor Anderson said. "And that's thanks to one of the community members who got that done and found the right people to make that happen."

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With one shipment of cold good to arrive before opening day, the months of planning and rehab hasn't always been pretty,

"It needed a lot," Egli said. "It was in bad shape."

Over $100,000 in donations have paid off thanks something in part to something Manson has plenty of: hardworking people.

The first part of the new chapter is over, and it's now up to neighbors to finish the story

"The true community base will be supporting the store," Egli said. "It may not be the cheapes, but if we're going to keep it going we have to support it to make it feasible for families to shop here and not need to go elsewhere."

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