Kansas grocery earns small business award
A western Kansas couple, Gordon and Mary Jenkins, have earned the 2012 Kansas Small Business Persons of the Year Award.
These owners were praised for their grocery store, Cimarron Shurfine Foods, which serves Cimarron, Kan., pop. 2,000.
As the only grocery store owners to receive this award from the Small Business Administration, the Jenkins were honored for their customer service, community outreach and business growth.
The couple purchased the local grocery in 2007, and since then, has strived to uphold small-town values by caring for their customers.
"Our main goal is customer service. We want to take care of our customers and make the store a clean place for customers to shop," Mary Jenkins said.
Since purchasing the store, the Jenkins have transformed what they described as a typical small-town grocery store into a one-stop shop with a Subway restaurant, full-service bank, hot and cold delis, photo kiosk, catering service, video rentals and recently added liquor store.
Customers also can purchase money orders and obtain hunting and fishing licenses.
"We want to be able to offer Cimarron customers anything they would go out of town for," Mary Jenkins said. "If we can keep them in town, that's good for Cimarron."
It is also this customer service that helps Cimarron Shurfine Foods remain competitive with the nearby, larger stores located in Dodge City, Kan., and Garden City, Kan., Gordon Jenkins said.
"Customer service is one of the most important things in business today," he said.
Jim Hardesty, a Cimarron resident and loyal customer, describes the store as "pretty awesome."
"They (the owners and employees) speak to you, they give you the time of day," Hardesty said. "They will wait on you hand and foot, carry your groceries out, and, if you want something they don't have, they will order it for you. They (the Jenkinses) take care of their customers, and they teach their employees how to do it, too."
Building rapport with customers is on the Jenkinses' list of customer service "musts," and is one of the reasons Mary Jenkins also describes her store as a "home away from home."
"To go into a grocery store and know them (your customers) and have them (the customers) know you, is a good feeling," she said.
The award-winning store is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and until 10 p.m. in the summer so customers can shop after ball games, Mary Jenkins said.
And, while the main focus for the Jenkins as grocery store owners is on the customer, Gordon and Mary also keep their employees and the larger community in mind.
For example, the Jenkinses teach job skills to the multitude of high school students they employ, and are involved with local youth groups, including the Boy and Girl Scout Troops.
The award honors the Jenkinses' dedication to the community, yet Mary suggested that it also is a way to help build community, because it gives the kids they employ an incentive to know they can do whatever they put their minds to.
It's this dedication to Cimarron that causes Mary Jenkins to describe her grocery store as "hometown proud."
"We are proud of what we have provided for the community, and we are here for the hometown," Mary Jenkins said.
Kansas State University's Center for Engagement and Community Development has more information about local grocery stores, access to food, and effect on community health available at: www.ruralgrocery.org.