The future of the small rural grocery store: A qualitative exploration

Courtney A. Pinard, Hollyanne E. Fricke, Teresa M. Smith, Leah R. Carpenter, Amy L. Yaroch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives: Rural communities face unique challenges to and opportunities for offering more healthful foods and are often understudied in comparison to their urban counterparts. The purpose of this study was to conduct a qualitative assessment of rural storeowners' perceptions of their communities, their business practices, and factors that influences their viability, sustainability, and ability to support healthy food choices. Methods: We conducted interviews with storeowners (N = 15) in small stores in rural Nebraska and explored perceptions of business practices, role in the community, and consumer demand for more healthful foods. Results: The storeowners reported strategies they employ to remain competitive, such as selling alcohol and tobacco, focusing on customer service, and ensuring quality of products. Manufacturer and distributor agreements often put constraints on their business models. Key challenges reported included a dwindling population and competition with larger chains in neighboring towns set in a sparsely populated landscape. Goals for the future included expanding equipment, largely to offer more prepared foods. Conclusions: This study adds to the literature around food access in rural communities, and can inform future implementation strategies to work with storeowners to improve healthy food access.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)749-760
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2016


  • Food Access
  • Health Promotion
  • Rural
  • Small Store

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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