ST. MARYS — This small northeast Kansas town has lost its only grocery store to fire, meaning residents must make 16-mile round trips to buy groceries at the nearest full-service market in Rossville.
The blaze early Saturday morning burned Gockel's Thriftway to the ground. Firefighters kept the fire from spreading to adjoining business buildings, although a coffee shop suffered smoke damage, said City Manager Jamie Bell.
Trips to Rossville for groceries could be difficult for some of St. Marys' approximately 2,200 residents.
"We had one brief discussion on Saturday afternoon looking into some ways to help some of our elderly citizens or the handicapped," Bell said. "In the next couple of days, we're going to try to find some assistance to them in order to help them out."
St. Marys United Methodist Church minister Susan Montgomery said she was placing an insert in Sunday's church bulletins asking members to check on elderly neighbors and offer to begin filling grocery lists in area stores for people unable to drive or afford the cost of gasoline.
"We have people who are used to going to the store every day," Montgomery said. "Now they're not able to do that so easily.
"And I see this is a problem, and we also need to take steps to increase our giving to the local food pantry for people who cannot bear the increased costs of gasoline."
Bell said a cause for the blaze had not been determined yet.