There’s a unique grocery store in a tiny town in north central Nebraska that’s unusual because of who owns and operates it. Cody is home to the Circle C Market.
On a typical Thursday, staff at the Circle C Market check what’s in stock and decide what to order. Erin Cheney is produce coordinator.
I’m looking to see what we have a lot of, what we don’t have very much of,” Cheney says while looking through a cooler of vegetables. “So I’m ordering more celery because we only have four packages.”
In a cramped backroom office, Brittany Daugherty calls the grocery store’s food supplier and asks about ordering family-size turkeys.
Nearby, Sydney Adamson works on a computer. “I’m entering all the daily work in QuickBooks,” she explained.
The handful of Circle C staffers finish their hour of work, and go back to school. Yes, back to Cody-Kilgore School, a couple blocks away, where Adamson and the others are students.
“Student-run grocery store, I mean that’s not very common,” Adamson said, in a bit of an understatement. It’s rare in fact, although nationally there are a couple other school-run, non-profit grocery stores like Circle C.
How did this happen in Cody? First, a little background. The village sits atop Cherry County, a sparsely populated chunk of Sandhills ranchland bigger than the entire state of Connecticut. Just 150 people call Cody home. It’s not a prime location for any retail business to thrive and survive; Cody’s previous grocery store closed more than a decade ago.
“It started through a brainstorming session actually here at the school long before I was here,” said Todd Chessmore, who was attracted to the Cody-Kilgore Schools superintendent job because of the Circle C project. “A couple teachers said, you know kind of as a joke, ‘we need to have a grocery store.’ As the discussion went on that joke turned into, ‘well let’s see what we can do.’”
They turned a crazy idea into reality, involving students and community members from the beginning…