The Panhandle Coop opened two new stores this month, expanding its offerings to new customers.
The two stores are called The Good Life and The Coop Feed and Pet Supplies. The former is adjacent to the Main Street Market location in Scottsbluff and sells homewares and decor. The latter is just west of the market, across from a parking lot, and specializes in farm equipment and show supplies.
Both stores were unveiled at a celebration of the co-op’s 80th anniversary on May 14.
Charlie Wright, chairman of the co-op, said the new store locations had been empty for at least seven years. When he became president of the company five years ago, he said he started thinking about different ways to fill those slots.
One idea he had was a childcare place for employees, but he couldn’t find enough people to make it work. He and his wife Cathy discussed turning an empty storefront into a home and gift shop. Cathy served as The Good Life’s product visionary and inventory consultant. “So far it’s been well received. We’re very happy with how it’s going,” Wright said.
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After an eight-week renovation period, The Good Life held its soft opening on May 3. The inventory includes household items and kitchen supplies, various furniture and decorations.
“We’ve had a lot of excitement, positive feedback from the community and we’re also excited to welcome more people,” said store manager Anne Kelley.
The store caters to those looking for gifts by offering standing wedding registries, a gift wrapping station, and gift cards.
“We want The Good Life to be the first thing they think of when they need a wedding, an anniversary, a birthday present; a baby shower gift; or something to redecorate their home or a gift for themselves,” Kelley added.
Staff at The Good Life take the comments to heart, she said. They aim to add more Christian gifts, jewelry, and specific types of kitchen supplies due to customer feedback. Kelley plans to go to market and acquire new stock in June and is already planning for the Christmas season.
“What you see in the store today will be different in a few weeks because we will continue to order new things as others sell out, but we are not going to be ordering new things. This is going to be constantly evolving,” she said.
Kelley and Wright both emphasized a goal of selling local products, such as 3 Dirty Boys candles made in Gering with custom scents exclusive to The Good Life.
“As more and more merchants, artisans come to us with some of their products, if we think it fits our line, we would really like to promote it,” Wright said.
Like The Good Life, The Feed and Pet Supplies store also includes boutique items, but Wright said its primary focus is to sell fencing and show gear.
The Panhandle Coop had long been involved in pet food, but it became less of a priority for the company in the 1990s, he added, in part because of competition with big-box stores.
“It’s a pretty low margin product, that’s another issue,” Wright said. “But when you talk to people who have lived in the valley…they say ‘we always went to the co-op to get our food, our signs, our water tanks, whatever we needed. That’ is where we used to go We talked, is there a niche for us to fit back in?
The company has hired sales manager Sara Cover to revitalize its food division and bring in more products and services. One such service is a new dog wash station, priced at $10 per wash.
“Although a lot of people don’t know it yet, it was well received,” Wright said. “It works really well. I have a little corgi who has a ton of hair and it was really nice to have him rinsed.
Products sold include various ranch-style decor, farm equipment and farm supplies, in addition to food. The grocery store is run by Jayden Allen and Chandler Rummel, who have managed day-to-day operations since the store opened on May 12.
“We sell pet food, pet products, animal health, dog washes, show cattle equipment. We’re trying to expand our shop,” Rummel said. For their show products in particular, they can customize orders according to customer needs. “…We can basically order whatever anybody wants, you just have to call and let us know,” she added.
Like The Good Life, this store also emphasizes selling local products made in Nebraska.
“We use the tagline ‘live local and be well’ because as a Panhandle Coop business we understand the value of truly living in a community,” Cathy Wright said in an email to the Star-Herald. “We want to provide the community with the gifts and home products they might otherwise have to order or travel to acquire.”