ONAGA — Days after a fire destroyed the only grocery store in Onaga, the rural town and its residents are trying to figure out what to do next.
"Right now, we are just trying to regroup and figure out how to get everyone groceries," said Mayor Gary Holthaus.
Holthaus and the rest of Onaga's 700 residents are now forced to travel the 25 miles to St. Marys or 35 miles to Wamego to get food and supplies.
Pottawatomie County has set up a shuttle service that will run a couple of days a week to allow people to get to other grocery stores in the county.
"The county commissioners gave us their extra minibus, and we are looking into trying to set up a temporary grocery store for the time being," Holthaus said.
"We looked at the fair building, but it doesn't have any heat. So now, we are just looking into other options, which will hopefully work out so we can survive the winter months."
Wanda's Country Cooking in Onaga has expanded its inventory and services to try to make sure everyone has food.
"We want to make sure everyone has the bare necessities of meat, milk and bread," said co-owner Karla Rice.
Rice said the loss of the town's only grocery store came at the worst possible time.
"The holidays and the rest of the winter is going to be pretty tough for everyone in this town," she said.
Firefighters from four communities responded to the Dec. 2 fire that broke out at Nider's Thriftway. Onaga Police Chief Tim Morse said damage was estimated at $1.3 million, but no cause had been determined.
Officials from the State Fire Marshal's Office as well as officials from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have been called in to investigate.