Ord is a small Nebraska town of about 2,000 people. Kiley White, owner/manager of Ord Grocery Kart, has been a part of the community for 26 years.
Like many other independent grocers across the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges to the local retailer but also offered a bit of a silver lining. “We’re making it work,” White said.
One of the major challenges Ord Grocery Kart has faced is not getting products.
“Right now, we’re having trouble getting canned cat food, pasta and cough drops,” he said.
Overall, the store is continuing to get shorted about 40 percent of its product. As for staffing concerns, White said he has been lucky in that area.
“We’ve got a pretty darn good crew,” he said. “Quite a few of them have been with me over 20 years. Someone recently asked me how do I keep them. I said I treat them like humans, and I’m flexible.”
White said he gave his employees bonuses during the COVID-19 season. They also receive a bonus at the end of the year, and he said he always recognizes staff birthdays.
As for that silver lining?
“We’re within basically 70 miles of three Walmarts and Sam’s Club. A lot of the people during the major hit of COVID were sticking with their smaller stores,” White said. “And a lot of the comments were, ‘Oh, you’re cheaper than those other stores.’ And so we have kept a lot of those customers.”
While Ord Grocery Kart does not have an online shopping program, per se, it does offer free deliveries every Thursday, White said. “People send us their order via email or text or just call it in,” he said. “We did a lot more of that during COVID, where we were doing a lot of curbside pickup and whatnot.”
The curbside service is continuing, as people are continuing to call and request it. White said adding online shopping has been in the works but is “just kind of cost prohibitive for the size of store we are.”
White reaches out to his customers through a variety of ways. The store publishes weekly fliers, has a Facebook page and White is on the radio every week. He said the store also has an app where customers can receive a special every week of a free or discounted item, along with digital coupons, sent to their cell phones.
White would like to expand the store, but as it is landlocked, there is “really nothing we can do.” It is located just half a block north of the downtown square. He said it would be detrimental to the business to build elsewhere, which would probably be on the edge of town.
“We just replace what we can,” he said. “With coolers, we’ll replace them with bigger coolers that usually hold more product.”
The older cases in the store are replaced every two years with new ones that have doors, which “increases the efficiency quite a bit.” The store also has switched to primarily LED lighting in an effort to save costs and become more efficient.
Ord Grocery Kart is known for its homemade hot dogs and Polish sausage. It also has a deli that offers Chester’s Chicken. The store has a hot case for grab-and-go items, such as meals and eight-piece chicken specials that became a lot more popular due to the pandemic.
During White’s time at Ord Grocery Kart, the store added a liquor department, which was “quite good,” and also added the deli area.
For more information, visit ordgrocerykart.com.