A native of Truman, Minnesota, Graham purchased (and thus saved) his town’s only market in 2006 while still in high school, using a small community loan and cash he had saved working on his uncle’s turkey farm. The bold move was documented by several national media outlets at the time, including CBS:
In rural America, sustaining a local store is even more taxing. Depopulation, particularly of young families, leaves stores without an adequate customer base or workforce from which to draw competent employees. Meeting minimum buying requirements established by food distributors is a headache when business is slow, too.
Graham’s initial motivation was social: the youngster didn’t want to see another of his community’s anchor institutions collapse, particularly one that provides neighbors with sustenance and that serves, in the words of rural policy expert Jon Bailier, as “an economic driver, community builder, employer, and meeting place.” But he soon found that these stores could net a profit if run in creative ways. He started wholesaling for nearby restaurants and convenience stores, for example, and stayed open long enough to service locals with busy schedules.
Four years later, he’s built a mini-empire in rural Iowa, having sold the Truman branch for a good price in 2008, and has tentative plans to expand into several other towns. If Graham and researchers at Kansas State University have anything to say about it, America's new generation of farmers will soon have a new generation of sellers to supply.