STAPLETON, Neb. — It’s no secret the newspaper business is struggling, but one small-town newspaper has found a way to not only increase its revenue but supplement the entire town it serves with one unique idea: opening a liquor store in the backroom of its offices.
“We’d sent out a survey of what people would like to see in town and wine and spirits was pretty much at the top of the list,” said Marcia Hora, owner and publisher of Creative Printers in Stapleton, Nebraska.
The town has a population of 267.
“So, Kendra, my editor, she said, ‘Well we have all this space, why don’t we just have off-sale wine and spirits?’”
Herbie’s Speakeasy, named after Herbie Husker, the mascot for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s sports teams, made its grand opening within Creative Printers in October 2020, and business has been strong.
“It just evolved into this business, great business, a fun business,” Hora said.
People travel hours to visit the unique hybrid business and she says it certainly helps when the idea is so marketable.
“As far as we know, this is the one and only,” Hora said. “The only newspaper with a liquor store.”
While the increased revenue helps sustain the journalism that covers four counties, Hora says the main reason they started the business is to move Stapleton one step closer to becoming self-sufficient. Just four years ago, residents worked together to get their grocery store open again on the town’s Main Street.
“We’re limited on the number of people in our communities and so trying to get those people to utilize the businesses in town is important,” said Melody Hansen, owner of Sublime Artistry just down the street from Creative Printers.
Hora’s thinking behind opening the liquor store is if people come in to make a purchase, they might also visit other shops in town while they are there. Prior to opening Herbie’s Speakeasy, locals would have to travel 30 miles to neighboring North Platte to purchase liquor.
“We really wanted to keep people shopping locally,” said Hora. “I believe that that’s the only way these small towns are going to make it, is if we support one another.”
Many rural small towns have been declining in population for years adding to metropolitan dominance as more and more young people move to larger, urban areas but Hora says she is determined to augment the town she loves and has grown to call home.
“We’re going to have to all start thinking out of the box,” Hora said. “Find our little niche in all these little communities and everybody has something, I mean they do they have potential. They have their own little logistics. We just need to work together, find out what people want, and go for it!”
“Right now, we need a restaurant, but we’re working on that,” she said.