City of Erie moves forward with grocery store purchase

Stub's Produce Section

ERIE, Kan. – Canned food, milk, bread, fried chicken, and diapers. All things that that you can only get together from one place if you live in Erie, Kansas.

Neosho County resident Carol Eckman normally does most of her grocery shopping at Stub’s Market in Erie, with occasional trips to Walmart in Chanute. But over the last couple of months, she’s opted to stay closer to home, shopping at Stub’s more often than not.

“Especially since COVID hit. There are fewer people, and I don’t have to be in a rush. I can come in, get what I want and go,” says Eckman.

The need for local grocery stores in rural towns as been magnified by the pandemic, with many people wanting a place that’s close to home. But the future has been a little foggy for Stub’s Market.

The current owners, Shirlene and David Mahurin put the store up for sale last year but didn’t have any luck finding a buyer. So, they asked the city if they would want to buy it, with major discussions starting back in September.

Now, after several months, the city council has made a commitment to buying the store, to make sure that it doesn’t close.

“A grocery store is an essential thing for a city. And people think if we don’t have the store, then the town’s gonna really die. It’s gonna affect property rates, the sales tax, etcetera, etcetera,” says Erie City Councilman Jason Thompson. “It’s like losing a school they say.”

The city has considered the idea of running the store as a city utility but haven’t made the final decision on how it will run. They have formed a committee to work through those finer details, and are in the middle of contract negotiations with the current owners.

“We’re still working on a business plan right now, just with our committee. But we’ve still gotta hire management, which is gonna be very key. Hopefully… we have a target date hopefully by the first of the year,” says Thompson.

So it’s no longer a matter of if, but when. Something that Eckman is glad to hear.

“It’s difficult for some of the older people to get out and I know that the neighbors out there all shop for other neighbors sometimes, and it’s nice to have this store close,” says Eckman. “This is a really nice store, and I really hope it does not shut down.”

The closest full-service grocery store to Erie is in St. Paul, which is eight miles away. Otherwise, Parsons is the closest at 16 miles.