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Citizens of a rural town come together to save and revamp the only grocery store in place

The next grocery store is 15 miles away. Luckily, the Royal Supermart is here to stay thanks to the citizens and their community spirit.

Citizens of a rural town come together to save and revamp the only grocery store in place
Cover Image Source: Facebook/conerstonecommunitywellness

We’ve always been taught how unity is important and has a life-changing impact on our lives and the lives of others. The whole idea of a community approach has been a long-encouraged one for a strong reason. When we come together to do something, we see results because it is our united effort that breaks through all barriers. A heartwarming story was shared by The Washington Post about a small rural town that managed to unitedly save their only grocery store.



The story goes back to 1940 when 69-year-old John Winger’s father opened the Royal SuperMart in the small town of Sheffield. Like any other small town, this store set up its roots and served as a bonding spot for the Sheffield residents. In 1985, Winger took over the store and continued the legacy of being one of the trusted grocers for the town. However, in the last few years, he had made plans to retire but found no one to take over the store. The article mentioned that the Royal SuperMart was the only store standing and the next grocery store was 15 miles away and Winger couldn’t bear the thought of leaving the town people without a store to rely on.


He put up the store for sale some time ago. On pondering further, he realized that the buyer wouldn't necessarily maintain the grocery store and would probably break it down. Winger and the people were in a dilemma and that’s where hope shined. One of the residents, Elizabeth Pratt, who had been living in Sheffield for over 12 years, came into the picture. She understood Winger’s indecisiveness and wanted to help. She said, “It’s very hard in a small town to feel like you’re abandoning your community in that way. He was hanging on, as long as he could.”


Pratt then offered to raise money through her non-profit center. The idea was that Cornerstone Community Wellness would raise money and convert the store into an expanded supermarket for better efficiency. This was a win-win situation for Winger and Sheffield and the town was well supportive. In just a few months, the community with the help of the organization was able to raise $500,000. This was more than enough to buy the property and revamp it into something more socially active and wonderful. “Raising half a million dollars in a small rural community, that was huge. People stepped up,” said Mary Lanham, the village president of Sheffield.


Though the store turned big and accommodating, it carried the same name as it did in the 90s. The reason for this was explained on their new website “Big box stores exist, but we don’t think ‘super’ is an overstatement. Don’t think of ‘super’ as in size. We are super fun (at least we think so), super kind, super at meeting the small town needs.” Pratt said, “Rural grocery stores are economic anchors.” However, it’s a lot more. The store is an extended platform for the community to come together and bond, grow in its richness and fend for itself without having to depend on neighboring towns. 


Apart from providing donations, the townspeople contributed their time as well. They took up responsibilities to keep the Royal Supermart alive and enhance it further. Matthew Lanham, who grew up in Sheffield and now lives in D.C., was eager to pitch in. He said, “The store is the focal point of the community.” Winger is semi-retired and still runs his appliance shop locally. He said, “I couldn’t be happier,” as his family legacy lives on and the townspeople enjoy fresh groceries as they always have.

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