By RON WILSON Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development
Second Saturday. Curiosity Tuesday.
Do those events sound like items on the calendar at your local supermarket? They may not be what you’d expect, but those are examples of creative events a rural grocery store is using to expand and engage their customer base.
Marilyn Logan is general manager of The Marmaton Market in Moran, a rural Allen County community of 466 people, but there’s more. Marilyn grew up in the Crawford County community of Walnut, Kansas, population 187. Now, that’s rural.
“My dad taught us a good work ethic,” Logan said. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business with a minor in accounting and worked for years as an accountant and auditor. She raised four children and is now a widow. She has 15 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Marilyn moved back to southeast Kansas in 2016. “I like small towns,” Logan said. She is a member of several local volunteer boards such as the Iola Public Library, Iola Housing Authority, Allen County GROW, and SEKCAP.
In Moran, local grocery store owners wanted to retire. In 2018, the store was purchased by a group of citizens who formed what Logan called a for-profit semi-cooperative. She served on the board. They called the store The Marmaton Market.
“The first thing we did was get everything down to bare walls,” Logan said. They added LED lighting, remodeled and restocked the store. By December 2019, the store was once again in financial difficulty. Logan took over as general manager.
“I don’t know anything about groceries, but I do know something about business,” he said. “I try to think of innovative ways to attract customers and keep them happy. I have a wonderful board of directors that has been very supportive of the ideas I bring to them.”
Today, The Marmaton Market is a full-line grocery store that also offers health, beauty, and cleaning supplies. Logan seeks out local meat and produce as much as possible. “At my store, you can get everything you need to make a complete and healthy meal,” she said.
He pitched various creative ideas to grow the business in the store. One was a more aggressive use of social media, specifically Facebook.
“I post every day,” Logan said. Every week he does what he calls Trivia Tuesday when he posts fun and educational trivia questions as well as announcements and sale items. He began holding children’s coloring page contests and offering members-only sales, as well as raffles for holiday gifts.
Customers have the option to sign up to receive sales announcements by email in advance. Supplies are provided to local food pantries at a discount.
On the second Saturday of each month, craft vendors are invited to display products inside the store. Lunches are made from store items and hoagie sandwiches are made to go. When the school district stopped offering summer meals, Logan said, “We can do that.” A farmers market operates in the store twice a month.
“I like to think outside the box,” Logan said. “Or, maybe I don’t have a box. I try to learn something new every day.”
In 2022, he wrote a grant proposal with input from K-State Rural Grocery Initiative staff for a Healthy Food Financing Initiative grant that will enable the installation of a commercial kitchen for use by local food entrepreneurs.
During 2021 and 2022, he also wrote grants for various programs that allowed for the purchase of refrigerators, freezers, and a new HVAC system. Nearly $250,000 has been generated through grants to upgrade The Marmaton Market and better serve customers.
“The Kansas Healthy Food Initiative and the Rural Grocery Initiative have been a blessing to us,” said Logan.
For more information about the store, visit www.themarmatonmarketinc.com.
Second Saturday. Curiosity Tuesday. These are examples of creative ideas resulting from the innovative thinking of the owners and managers of this store in rural Kansas. We salute Marilyn Logan and everyone involved at The Marmaton Market for making a difference with their commitment to their community and creativity in marketing.
It makes for a compelling calendar in a successful store.