Shelf Interest

updated 02/26/2001 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/26/2001 01:00AM

There is no crime to speak of in Arthur, Nebraska. Nor are there traffic lights, bowling alleys or celebrity neighbors. But when the only grocery store closed three years ago, Arthur's residents—all 128 of them—were faced with having to go 34 miles to Ogallala just to buy a quart of milk. Even for Joy Marshall, who has spent most of her life in America's wide-open spaces, that's a little too much frontier living.

Today, Arthur once again has a grocery store—thanks to Marshall and the 29 kids of Arthur High, who helped set up and run the Wolf Den Market. The store—named for the school's six-man football team—occupies a one-bedroom house four blocks off Main Street. Because the Wolf Den is too small to attract a wholesaler, volunteers drive to Hyannis, 38 miles away, and stock up (at a discount) at Dredla's Grocery there.

As markets go, the Wolf Den is far from super: There are no price scanners and the frozen-foods section is in the garage. "It's a pretty hilarious store," admits Marshall, 43, whose husband, James, owns a fence-building company. "And we're pretty limited on stock and brands. But it's a relief for me."

The store arose out of an entrepreneurial program that Marshall and her friend Virginia Sizer, 62, set up at the high school in 1997. The pair called everyone in town to find out if residents wanted a new grocery. When the results came in, Marshall, Sizer and the kids went to work, creating a business plan and organizing the store. Wolf Den opened its doors on Nov. 15—and sold out of milk the first day.

Says 16-year-old sophomore Patricia Steel, who with pals once drove 77 miles before 7 a.m. to pick up supplies for the store: "It's definitely not like running a lemonade stand."

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