Big B's Thriftway of Seneca

By Chelsea Cooley, Brooke Campbell, Emily Rost, Claire Hieger, Lyndsey Webb

Although Big B's Thriftway is a small, rural grocery store compared with its competing stores — Ray's Apple Market, Wal-Mart and Pomida — the store keeps local customers by staying involved with the community, offering competitive prices and developing close relationships with the staff and customers.

Lois Crosier, co-owner of Big B's Thriftway since 1971, said, "Big B's is very supportive of local high school athletics, radio, newspaper, and little league teams to stay involved with the community and try and keep a leg up with the competition, but at times it can get difficult."

The main difficulties the store faces has been keeping up with the newest technology and trying to schedule the young staff around all of the activities that come with being in high school.

"Not until recently did we get the most up-to-date scanners, registers and equipment for credit or debit transactions," Julie Mcintire, assistant manager and employee of Big B's for the past 20 years, said.

Another problem Big B's is facing is the poor insulation due to the age of the building, which makes higher energy bills each month.

"On average we spend close to $5,000 a month on our gas and electric bills. The building has been here since 1963, and it is poorly insulated. I really noticed this after moving from our last home which was constructed in 1959, around the same time Big B's was, and to our new home now which was recently built. We have much cheaper energy costs because our home is more energy efficient," Crosier said.

Although these issues pose challenges for the store, it doesn't inhibit Big B's customer satisfaction or financial stability. The owners of Big B's Thriftway say they make sure to employ local people with a strong work ethic and a friendly demeanor. The store consists of 35 employees, primarily part-time high school students and retired citizens. Only six employees are employed full-time.

"We are all really close here, and I feel like they are part of my family, which is probably why I have stayed here the past three years," said Michaela Altenhofen, junior at Nemaha Valley High School in Seneca and cashier at Big B's Thriftway.

Posted in the store's main office are pictures of high school employees and their dates posing in front of the greeting card section before prom. The prom pictures have been a tradition at Big B's Thriftway for as long as Altenhofen can remember. Not only is the store involved in the high school students' prom nights, but also throughout the entire year as well.

"The store is very supportive of the students," Connie Taylor, secretary at Nemaha Valley High School, said.

Big B's Thriftway offers discounted prices to Nemaha Valley High School for many different functions. Concession stand food for athletic tournaments is purchased at a discounted rate through Big B's Thriftway. The discount allows the school to keep more of the profit and better fund the school. The milk machines located in the school's cafeteria are also stocked with milk from Big B's, sold to the school at a cheaper price than on the shelf.

Not only does Big B's Thriftway play a vital role in the local high school, but the grocery store also has a profound impact on local businesses. The Courier-Tribune, Seneca's local newspaper, relies heavily on the money generated from Big B's advertisement purchases. Big B's is the largest consumer of advertisements for the Courier-Tribune, with inserts every week, and advertisements in every issue of the paper. The newspaper would suffer extremely if Big B's did not purchase advertisements.

"The number of pages I can put out is relevant to how much they advertise with us," Matt Diehl, part owner of the Courier-Tribune since 1984, said.

If Big B's did not advertise in the newspaper, there would be a reduction of the newspaper, both in pages and in staff.

"Due to supporting so many local venues and competing with other stores sometimes we break even, sometimes we make a profit," Crosier said.