Chariton County Population Dropping
It had a booming agricultural economy, now Chariton County struggles to survive. Small, family-owned businesses like Penny's Restaurant have served breakfast and lunch for years.
But, with fewer available customers, businesses are just trying to hang on.
Grocery store owner Larry Pollard knows Chariton County is not the same as it once was.
"We had 27,000 people in Chariton County at the turn of the 20th century," he said. "That'd be too many people for me. But it would be nice to get a population base back to about 16,000 which we had in 1950.
"Businesses that I knew as a kid back in the '50s, many of those businesses aren't here," Pollard recalled.
Pollard and his family opened the store two years ago. His son-in-law said the family atmosphere in a small town keeps the store alive.
"The trick is getting to know the individual customers," explained Eric Kjos, "getting to know what each actual family looks for."
Keytesville doesn't have chain restaurants or other chains, just small, family-owned businesses trying to make it against the odds. One of them is Life's Memories.
"You don't have as large of a customer base as you would in a shopping mall," said owner Linda Haston. "But, you still attract customers from around the area that don't want to drive clear to Columbia."
Life's Memories is one of many businesses trying to boost the economy. Residents hope new businesses will convince people to stay.
"We're very aggressive about getting Keytesville to grow, too. We've got a plan that we're working on. We're going to encourage businesses to come into Keytesville."
Chariton County schools are working with the University of Missouri Extension to teach eighth graders about starting their own businesses so they won't move away when they grow up.
"I want to be a pediatrician," said Amanda Medlin. "And I think that would really help our community if I started my own business as far as a medical career here in this community."
MU's Community Entrepreneurial Development Department also chose three other regional groups to share ideas about rebuilding their communities.
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