Second Saturday. Trivia Tuesday.
Do those events sound like items on the calendar at your local grocery store? They might not be what one would expect, but those are examples of creative events that one rural grocery store is using to expand and engage its 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 people. Now, that’s rural.
“My dad taught us a good work ethic,” Logan said. She earned a degree in business with a minor in accounting and worked for years as an accountant and auditor. She raised four sons and is now widowed. She has 15 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Marilyn moved back to southeast Kansas in 2016. “I like little towns,” Logan said. She serves on several local volunteer boards such as the Iola Public Library, Iola Housing Authority, Allen County GROW and SEKCAP.
In Moran, the local grocery store owners were wanting 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 named the store The Marmaton Market.
“The first thing we did was take everything down to the bare walls,” Logan said. They added LED lighting, remodeled and restocked the store. By December 2019, the store was struggling financially again. Logan took over as general manager.
“I don’t know anything about groceries but I do know something about business,” she said. “I try to think of innovative ways to bring customers in 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 items. Logan seeks local meat and produce as much as possible. “In my store, you can get everything you need to prepare a full, healthy meal,” she said.
She launched several creative ideas to grow business in the store. One was a more aggressive use of social media, specifically Facebook.
“I post each day,” Logan said. Each week she does what she calls Trivia Tuesday when she posts fun and educational trivia questions in addition to ads and sale items. She started holding contests for kids’ coloring pages and offering member-only sales plus drawings for holiday gifts.
Customers have the option to sign up to get sale ads emailed to them 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 prepared using in-store products and hoagie sandwiches are made up to go. When the school district stopped offering summer meals, Logan said, “We can do that.” A farmers market operates at 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, she wrote a grant proposal with input from K-State’s Rural Grocery Initiative staff for a Healthy Food Financing Initiative grant that will enable installation of a commercial kitchen for use by local food entrepreneurs.
During 2021 and 2022, she also wrote grants to various programs that allowed for the purchase of coolers, freezers, and a new HVAC system. Almost $250,000 has been generated through grants to upgrade The Marmaton Market and better serve customers.
“The Kansas Healthy Food Initiative and Rural Grocery Initiative have been a blessing to us,” Logan said.
For more information on the store, go to www.themarmatonmarketinc.com.
Second Saturday. Trivia Tuesday. These are examples of creative ideas resulting from outside-the-box thinking by owners and managers of this store in rural Kansas. We salute Marilyn Logan and all those involved with The Marmaton Market for making a difference with commitment to their community and creativity in marketing.
It makes for a Compelling Calendar at a Successful Store.
Ron Wilson is the director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.