Lynch, Nebraska's Remote Community Opens A New Grocery Store Together

March 28, 2022, 8 a.m. ·

A Lynch resident buys groceries at Valley Foods Cooperative.
It's important to have a grocery store in the community to attract more residents, Lynch's Valley Foods Cooperative President Paul Fisher said. (Photo Courtesy of Russell Shaffer, Rural Prosperity Nebraska)

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The remote village of Lynch, Nebraska, near the South Dakota border, lost its only grocery store and became a food desert in spring 2020. The community opened a new cooperative grocery store on March 26.

The town’s only grocery store closed back then because the owners retired and there were financial issues from the 2019 floods.

"It's hard for people, we have a large elderly population and so it's not so easy for them to do their shopping," local resident Paul Fisher said. "The closest store was either 13 miles to the west, or in Niobrara, which is 25 miles to the east. Everybody really missed it."

It was important for Fisher to keep the town alive and re-open the grocery store. So, a few residents joined him in starting a committee and reached out to Rural Prosperity Nebraska extension educator and associate director of the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center Charlotte Narjes, to see if they could open a co-op grocery store. Narjes explains a cooperative is a member-owned business by multiple people.

Soon, residents helped move out old coolers and freezers, replace the flooring and ceiling, put in new lights and paint the walls. Volunteer labor powered Lynch’s Valley Foods Cooperative, said retired accountant David Barnes.

"If a town of 212 people this remote can come together and get a grocery store up and going, I'd like to think that we're showing that it can be done and should be tried," he said. "You should try to do it."

None of them are grocers by trade and there’s a lot of learning ahead, but co-op president Paul Fisher and treasurer David Barnes are hopeful. They’ll do whatever they can to make sure the store will stay open.