ST. JOHN — A visit of the "NBC Today Show Weekend" with Willie Geist to St. John's White's Foodliner grocery complex in St. John didn't go as planned last week. Footage filmed, however, will be part of a special television documentary in the near future.
Residents and travelers through St. John have taken advantage of the food products, prescription medications and fuel island options at the White's Foodliner since the complex was built two years ago in St. John.
The successful establishment of a grocery store in a rural Kansas community caught the attention of "NBC Today Show Weekend," and a crew from NBC planned to be in St. John on Thursday to film a segment that will be included in a larger NBC story on shrinking rural access to necessities like food, gas and medication. The entire segment will highlight the success of small grocery stores. It will likely last about 3 minutes.
Carolyn Dunn, Stafford County economic director, said she received an email from a producer at the "Today show" who had seen a story in the New York Times about rural grocery stores and had read the Kansas State University Rural Grocery Initiative. The producer thought it a story worth highlighting.
At the core of the issue is an investment gap at the private level, public level and philanthropic level. This is not just about a food business being successful but also about population levels being strong enough to make entertainment, clothing, medical and other businesses successful.
Citizens of St. John were ready to meet and greet NBC television personalities at their grocery store as scheduled on Thursday afternoon, but Weekend Today producer Alicia Hastey flew into Wichita minus her television equipment. She had to reschedule her filming at St. John's White's Foodliner for Friday.
"She got here at 9 a.m. and took some shots of bananas and bread, but there were very few people in the grocery store at that time," said David Cutright, local news director for SSCTV3, a St. John station. "It was just unfortunate that two of the people she had planned to interview were both sick with the flu, but she didn't have much to work with."
Cutright said Hastey was able to film a few soundbites that will be part of the larger work on rural grocery stores. She said she would stop in Kingman at the White's Foodliner store there to interview the manager on her way back to Wichita.
"We're still glad to be a small part of this segment," Dunn said. "We are proud of the fact that our grocery store has had a good, positive effect on St. John's economy."
Reporter Gale Rose contributed to this story.