Maybe a staffless grocery store is the answer for small towns

Grocery stores in smaller communities have struggled in recent years and there’s real concern that they won’t be able to make it.

Many of them have tried everything. Almost everything. Most haven’t tried what Paul and Kendra Rasmusson have created in New Prague — a staffless, round-the-clock, self-checkout grocery store, Tech Insider reports.

Farmhouse Market, which opened last fall, charges $100 a year for members, who get a key card to get in the place. After that, they’re mostly on their own.

“People are stealing from grocery stores that are manned by 20+ people every day,” Rasmusson says. “Our goal is just to keep that risk to the same level as them. We’re on the same page as [our members] — we’re not a big company trying to make a ton of money.”

For the rest of the non-member public, the store is staffed 9 hours a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. During that time, non-members can shop, ask questions, and see if a membership’s worth it for them. Rasmusson says that for people who don’t live near organic farmers, it’s likely their only option.

Members get 5 percent off purchases, 10 percent of bulk purchases, and use of a community room with WiFi.

Tech Insider says it probably wouldn’t work in a big city, but does that really matter? City slickers have no shortage of grocery store options.

The store currently has 218 members in the community of 7,500.

The Rasmussons original motivation was to support the health needs of their three-year-old daughter, who has epilepsy. A nearby dairy, which met their daughter’s dietary needs, had closed.