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Economic Development is . . . (increasing the flow) of capital through the community and reducing its leakage.

2011 EDIES Story 5 of 24: Award winning Iowa grocery chain expands into Traer

For many small towns, local retail is the man-on-the-street’s measurement of economic health.  So when the 2010 Iowa Grocery Industry Association Retail award winning Hometown Foods chain of locally owned grocery stores moved into Traer in 2011, it breathed new life into downtown and the surrounding businesses. This Tama County expansion is in addition to six other Hometown Foods grocery stores owned by Lyndon & Joani Johnson located in Gladbrook, Conrad, State Center, Hubbard, Baxter and Waterloo.  Remind me – what are the EDIES.

HOW WE DID IT:
I picked a career path in the grocery store business while I was attending Muscatine Community College. My mom was furious because I quit school to pursue this full time and then I told her.  Dad was upset, too, but I remember mom being really mad. I wanted to do something I felt passionate about. Over time I moved up through the ranks and completed the Nash Finch Company’s Sponsorship Management Program. Then, in 1996 we bought our first store in Conrad, Iowa.

HOW WE GOT THE IDEA:
Four years after buying our first store, we were approached about buying the Gladbrook Family Market, and continued to buy grocery stores in the surrounding area, with the most recent acquisition being the Traer Supermarket in 2011. Now it’s pretty common for us to be in conversations with multiple communities about acquiring additional stores for the chain.

OUR GREATEST CHALLENGE:
Continuing to compete in an ever-changing market.  With the addition of non-traditional food outlets, and retailers extending their product mix by adding groceries, it is a constant battle to determine who our competition really is, and how we stay ahead of them.

HOW WE OVERCAME IT:
We consistently look at progressive programs (such as our Customer Loyalty program) to give us points of differentiation from these non-traditional competitors, as well as traditional grocery stores.

ADVICE TO OTHERS:
A large majority of my success can be attributed to the employees I have working with me at Hometown Foods.  I emphasize the work “with” and not “for” because I believe every employee is a valuable member of the store chain, all of which are working together for the greater good of it.

WHAT IS NEXT:
We recently hired a very well known (in our industry) consultant to assist us in answering this question. We are in the process of improving our existing operations by focusing on five criteria that set us apart from our competitors.  We have a plan to implement many programs to enhance our operations and take us into the future.  As far as expanding into other communities, we are always looking at any opportunity that fits our business model.

For more info you can visit the Hometown Foods website or click here to view their article in the Iowa Grocery Industry Association Magazine. Lyndon and Joani Johnson will also be doing a radio Today in Central Iowa interview with Kyle Martin on 1230AM-KFJB Talk Radio Wednesday, Jan 11, 2012, at 12:45 p.m.

Photo by Wayne Chamberlain [Hometown Foods manager Dave Wurr]

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