This story is published in partnership with Ozarks Alive, a cultural preservation project led by Kaitlyn McConnell.
RURAL CEDAR COUNTY – Both a long way from town and close(r) to home are statements that describe Kinfolk Market, a family-owned convenience-and-more store located down a dusty gravel road in rural Cedar County.
The store, which celebrates its first anniversary in May, is unusual for a number of reasons. One is location: Tucked away around 15 minutes from Stockton and 30 from Bolivar, it offers convenience for folks who don’t want to drive all the way to town for grocery items.
Perhaps for some, a more significant element is its intentional connection with the community. While it offers conventional grocery items, its owners work to engage local artisans and vendors to offer their items in the store as much as possible.
“Anything that we can get local, or homemade or handmade, that’s what we gravitate towards,” says Courtney Zitting, who helps manage the store. “And then beyond that, we just try and find the best prices.”
“We have so many people in this community who have things that they want to offer,” adds Amber Williams, Zitting’s sister who also manages the market. “We decided that this would be a good place for everyone to be able to get their stuff together for purchase, (and also since) town is quite far away.”
One wall of the store is dedicated to handcrafted items from vendors and includes things like jewelry, coffee beans, cosmetic products, herbal teas and elderberry syrup kits. The store’s leaders say vendors have to be approved, but they are very open to a wide variety of products.
“Especially as the gardens start coming on, getting fresh produce is awesome,” says Williams.
Besides those dry-good-style items, the store has full shelves, coolers and freezers of traditional grocery items. Among those wares, however, there are other local items such as breads, a variety of meat, ice cream — made with local black walnuts, which the Stockton area is known for — frozen pizza, and other frozen treats.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom, so it’s really convenient for me,” says vendor Sierra Brikle, baby in arms, as she pulls open a freezer to add more of her homemade popsicles. “They’re as healthy as I can get, and as minimal ingredients as I can get in there.”
Other, perhaps surprising, points of connection and convenience are also tied to the store. Just days ago, The Garden Cafe coffee shop opened up in space adjacent to the market. Its owners also have plans to eventually sell gasoline, proven by pumps out front. Another option already in progress is 24-hour access to the market for members.
“With all my kids, I like to shop after hours,” says Williams, who has seven children. “So we love having that for our members. They can come in anytime and shop when they need to.”
The access is given after paying a fee, and going through a sponsorship and vetting process. Once members are approved, they may access the facility whenever they wish and pay for items via a mobile checkout app.
As the sisters’ show, the store is deeply tied to family. It’s owned by Williams’ and Zitting’s mother, Diane Roper. Another of Roper’s seven children, Dustin Williams, had the idea for its start in the first place and helped create the building where it now exists.
“Our family’s really close,” says Williams. “So we’re like, ‘Hey, if you’re in, I’m in. Is everyone in? Alright, let’s do this.’ It’s mostly family run from all of our workers.”
Everyone, in this case, is quite a substantial, multi-generational group. Its members manage different aspects of the business, which has fit in nicely with their own lives. An example is Williams, who homeschools her children, and says working at the store gives her the flexibility to do both things.
“That’s what makes it so fantastic. Everybody kind of took an area that they cover, and everybody does so good in their area,” adds Roper. “I don’t really do a whole lot. They know what they’re doing in their area, and it just clicks. Like they said, we’re really close and everybody just knows where their job is at, and goes for it. It’s really awesome.”