Louisiana residents open downtown grocery store

Karl's worker Donald Dove carries empty boxes past a platform of produce inside the grocery store in Louisiana, Mo. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)
Posted: Feb. 15, 2013 10:43 am Updated: Mar. 1, 2013 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

LOUISIANA Mo. -- Cathy Sippely now keeps a shopping list for her community.

One woman needed yogurt for a lemon poppy seed muffin recipe. Another requested chicken broth and bouillon cubes.

Sippely and her husband, Karl, have opened a grocery story in downtown Louisiana, albeit small. The move comes more than three months after Kroger closed its store, leaving nearly 3,300 residents without a place to shop for groceries.

Named Karl's, the store is at 130 S. Fifth, and it means Louisiana residents no longer have to make a 10-mile drive to Bowling Green to shop for food.

"We're a small community, so things like this work," Karl Sippely said.

The Sippelys were operating a movie store that carried a small amount of Hispanic groceries items when Kroger closed its store that had been open since 1976.

The only supermarkets left in Pike County were the Wal-Mart Supercenter and Hickman's IGA, both in Bowling Green.

So, expanding their minimal grocery supply seemed like a plausible solution for the Sippelys.

After four weeks of planning, the couple stocked refrigerator cases with milk, cheese and eggs. Rows of shelves were lined with snacks, cans and spices. Boxes of produce were arranged on top of a platform covered with a picnic-style tablecloth.

The Sippelys admit they have struggled to find suppliers that can offer products a mom-and-pop market can afford. They have deals with Little Debbie and Pepsi, but they couldn't create a workable arrangement with Frito Lay or Prairie Farms.

They buy their meat from Brown's Processing in Winfield. They hope eventually to have locally grown produce, but in the meantime, they're buying much of their stock in bulk from Sam's Club in Quincy, Ill.

Beyond groceries, Karl's still offers a collection of movies, as well as purses, belts and other items. They also own a storage company, taxi service and trash company.

"In a small community, you've got to be everything," Karl Sippely said.

Betty Allen, a local historian, remembers when the Mississippi River town had 13 grocers in the 1940s. The last downtown store closed in the 1980s, and Kroger's decision meant there could be no quick drives to pick up last-minute items. Many Louisiana residents were forced to make larger buys when they shopped in Bowling Green to limit the number of trips.

Yet, when Allen needed yogurt for a Valentine's Day treat, she found what she needed at Karl's.

"You get so used to jumping in the car when you need something," Allen said.

Cathy Sippely said it will be years before the grocery store starts turning a profit, but she said residents have been appreciative.

"We're going to support the community," she said. "We're going to grow and we're going to fill out and we're going to be established."