Small Wyoming Town Gets Smaller As Food Mart Closes For years, Hanna, Wyo., had just one grocery store. Now it has none. It was one more casualty of the bad economy, and it's a blow to a town where jobs are scarce and a snowstorm can close roads for days at a time.
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Wyoming Town Loses Food Mart ... And A Bit Of Hope

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Wyoming Town Loses Food Mart ... And A Bit Of Hope

Wyoming Town Loses Food Mart ... And A Bit Of Hope

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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As the country bounces back from the worst recession in recent history, parts of the Rocky Mountain West are still suffering. For instance, the town of Hanna, Wyoming, a little town in the state's windswept plains. For years, it had only one grocery store - the Hanna Food Mart. Late last month, the store closed.

It's a blow to a town where jobs are scarce and where a snowstorm could close roads for days at a time.

Wyoming Public Radio's Molly Messick has the story.

MOLLY MESSICK: A few days before his store is scheduled to shut down, Andy Jones surveys the aisles at the Hanna Food Mart. He's stocked and swept and managed the place for a decade, but now the store is emptying out.

Mr. ANDY JONES (Owner, Hanna Food Mart): As you can see, there's not much left on the shelves right now. Our frozen is pretty well gone.

MESSICK: These last days at the store have become a kind of grim countdown, ever since Andy and his wife Sandy Jones gave their sales and expenses a hard look and decided they could no longer sell groceries in Hanna, Wyoming. Andy says the tipping point came quickly, as soon as the bad national economy started affecting local jobs.

Mr. JONES: Maybe the last half of the last year is when it really started dropping off. And every time a town loses one business, it's more reason for the people to go out of town, so it hurts all the rest of the businesses.

MESSICK: The business that hurt Andy was the gift shop across the parking lot. It closed sometime last summer, and the business Andy hurts by closing his doors is a local bar and restaurant called Dingy Dan's. Lois Buchanan owns it with her husband.

Ms. LOIS BUCHANAN (Owner, Dingy Dan's): We're to the point we want to put our house on the market and leave. It's just, it's not fun living here anymore.

MESSICK: With the Hanna Food Mart gone, there will be nowhere in town to buy bread or milk. There's not even a regular gas station in Hanna just a couple of credit-card-only gas pumps. A simple mini-mart is 20 miles away. The nearest grocery store will be an 80-mile drive round-trip. But a lot of people in Hanna don't get around that easily.

Ms. JUNE WEBSTER: It's bad.

MESSICK: June Webster is one of them.

Ms. WEBSTER: I mean, I walk to the store maybe two to three times a day and we don't go out of Dodge.

MESSICK: Webster is 82 and her husband's health isn't good. For them, losing the store doesn't only mean they'll need help getting groceries, it also means more isolation. It's a thought that brings June Webster to tears.

Ms. WEBSTER: I told our kids that on our phone system it's so much static. And the television, oh goodness, we have to keep calling telling them that it's off. And I said now our store is closing. And the kids said, I'd move. They want us to come home so bad, but this is home.

MESSICK: This town hasn't been well-off since the 1970s, the last time its coal mines were going strong. More and more, it seems like there's not much reason to have a town where Hanna sits. Still, there are families that have been here for generations. A lot of people retired to Hanna after mining dropped off and houses got cheap. Altogether, 800 people call this town home.

(Soundbite of banging)

MESSICK: By the afternoon, workers have come to pick up the big glass-front soda cooler that used to sit by the Food Mart's front door.

(Soundbite of cashier beeping)

Ms. LORINDE SCHISEL (Cashier, Hanna Food Mart): Twelve eighty-seven. All right. Have a good one. Might not see you again.

MESSICK: Busing is brisk - the way it's been since Andy and Sandy Jones announced they were going under and put pretty much the whole place on sale. Lorinde Schisel will lose her cashier's job, but she says she's not going to worry - yet.

Ms. SCHISEL: Well, I'm going to rest for a while. I'll have to look for something else. My husband's disabled and we can't live on his Social Security, We can't.

MESSICK: As for losing the grocery store, she says she'll start baking at home, the way she used to.

Ms. SCHISEL: Well, I made bread yesterday and made two-dozen tortillas. Yeah, we're all going to have to get back to basics.

MESSICK: For NPR News, I'm Molly Messick.

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