The Panhandle Coop opened two new stores this month, expanding their 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 home goods and decor. The latter is just to the west of the market, across a parking lot, and specializes in farming equipment and show supplies.
Both stores were unveiled during a celebration of the coop’s 80th anniversary on May 14.
Charlie Wright, the coop’s president, said the locations of the new stores had been empty for at least seven years. When he became the company president five years ago, he said he began thinking about different ways to fill those locations.
One idea he had was a childcare location for employees, but he couldn’t get enough people for that to work. He and his wife Cathy discussed turning an empty storefront into a home and gift store. Cathy served as the visionary behind the products of The Good Life and a consultant for the inventory. “So far it’s been well-received. We’re very happy with the way it’s working out,” Wright said.
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After an eight-week renovation period, The Good Life held its soft opening on May 3. Inventory includes home goods and kitchen supplies, various furniture items and decorations.
“We’ve had a lot of excitement, positive feedback from the community and we’re excited to get more people in as well,” store manager Anne Kelley said.
The store caters to those searching for gifts by offering stand-up 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 gift; a baby shower gift; or something to redecorate their home or a gift for themselves,” Kelley added.
The Good Life’s staff take feedback to heart, she said. They’re aiming to add more Christian gifts, jewelry and specific types of kitchen supply because of customer feedback. Kelley plans to go to market and acquire new inventory in June and is already planning for the Christmas season.
“What you see in the store today will be different a few weeks from now because we’re going to continue to order new things as the other stuff sells but we aren’t going to do re-orders. It’s going to be ever-changing,” she said.
Both Kelley and Wright 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 tradesmen, craftsmen come to us with some of their product, if we feel like it fits with our line we’d really like to promote that,” Wright said.
Like The Good Life, The Feed and Pet Supplies store also includes some boutique items, but Wright said its primary focus is on selling fencing and show equipment.
The Panhandle Coop had long been involved with feed, but it became less of a focus for the company in the 1990s, he added, partly because of competition with big box stores.
“It’s a fairly low-margin product, that’s another issue with it,” Wright said. “But when you talk to folks that have lived in the valley … they’re like ‘we always went to co-op to get our feed, panels, water tanks, everything we needed. That’s where we used to go.’ We talked about, is there a niche for us to fit back in there?”
The company hired sales manager Sara Cover to revitalize their feed division and bring more products and services in. One of these services is a new dog-washing station, priced at $10 per wash.
“While a lot of people don’t know about it yet, it’s been well-received,” Wright said. “It works really well. I’ve got a little corgi that’s got a ton of hair and it’s been really good to get him rinsed.”
The products sold include various ranch-style decor, farming equipment and agricultural supplies, in addition to feed itself. The feed 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 feed, animal product, animal health, dog washes, show cattle equipment. We’re trying to expand our boutique,” Rummel said. For their show products especially, they can customize orders to fit customers’ needs. “… We can basically order whatever someone wants, you just have to call and let us know,” she added.
Like The Good Life, this store also puts emphasis on selling local, Nebraskan-made products.
“We use the tagline ‘live local and be well’ because, as a Panhandle Coop company, we understand the value of really living in a community,” Cathy Wright said in an email to the Star-Herald. “We want to provide the community with the gifting and home products that they might otherwise have to order or travel to acquire.”