Odell Market finds many new hands
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Odell Market finds many new hands


All in the same block of Main Street, Odell, one can deliver a letter at the post office, make a deposit at the bank, get a haircut, eat lunch and pick up a gallon of milk at the corner market.

It's similar to other Nebraska towns with a few hundred residents. But as decades pass, small-town markets are disappearing. It's a fate Odell community members refused to let happen to their beloved Odell Market.

When previous owners Perry and Sharon Gydesen announced this summer they were retiring with no prospective new owners in sight, community members formed a plan to save the town's only grocery store and coffee hangout.

As of late September, Odell Market is owned by 85 community shareholders, which includes individual spouses listed separately.

"I'm glad to be retired, but I'm really glad that the store is continuing," Sharon Gydesen said. "That was a big concern for me."

Her absence is the most noticeable change at Odell Market since the paperwork went through four weeks ago. The store still opens at 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday and is closed Sunday. Its adjoined room is still a daily gathering place for two coffee crews.

"It's still a place where people can get a snack or come get all of their groceries and see familiar faces and chat," Gydesen said. "To lose a business in a small town is just too hard. And it's in an important part of the community...Nobody wanted the store to close."

Across the street is the Odell Community Center. Caddy-corner is the Odell City Park.

Gydesen said a group of about eight to 10 regular folks gather in the mornings for coffee in the grocery store's adjacent room of seating, located past storage. Another five or six visit there in the afternoons.

These folks didn't want the store to close. The Gydesens didn't want the store to close. Elderly folks who get their groceries from (and, for some, delivered by) Odell Market didn't want the store to close. Nor did manager Cathy Bures, who has worked there for 30 years, including when her parents were the owners.

"My father and mother owned it for 15 years," Bures said. "My father is still alive...He's really happy. He's got macular (degeneration) and can't drive. I'm close by so I can take him his groceries and stuff."

Bures said she didn't know what should would have done if the store closed.

"I'm glad it's here because I've worked here for a long time," Bures said.

Previously, Gydesen was at the store full time and Bures was also an employee. Now, Bures has help from Julie Klecan.

In the first community meeting, in June, focused on the future of Odell Market, seven joint owners of a Summerfield, Kansas, grocery store explained how they operate and gave potential shareholders of Odell Market ideas for a similar operation.

That same month, Odell community members began the arduous and foreign process of forming a cooperative to save the grocery store.

"I was kind of surprised by the amount of people who stepped up to try to keep it around," Bures said.

Bures said there were many long and tedious meetings since June and the whole process was stressful.

"There were lots of ups and downs," Gydesen said. "It was kind of a roller coaster of a summer."

A woman in town with experience in fundraising started doing so for the project, Gydesen said.

"The money took a while to come in, but people started jumping on the band wagon," Gydesen said.

She said nobody knew where to start in the legal parts of the process.

Gydesen said efforts were also strongly led by Jill Scheele.

Bures said the big group of shareholders are split into sub groups with separate responsibilities and one core group oversees the store as a whole. They plan to meet quarterly and have ideas for freshening the store, which she said will be revisited after the first of the new year.

"We're trying to get it back to where it was," Bures said. "It's kind of quiet right now since everybody's out harvesting...We're doing a lot of cleaning and some rearranging. We're try to get the inventory built back up. We weren't ordering much for a while because we didn't know if this would go through. We're getting there, slowly but surely."

Sharon Gydesen will continue to cook and serve lunch, always featuring pie, on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Odell Market.


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