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Shown above is a conceptual rendering of the incoming Fareway store in Rockwell City. The new pilot store, scheduled to open by March 2022, will be located off of County Road D36 and west of Sunnyview Independent Living. [Photo courtesy of Fareway Stores, Inc.]
By: 
Tyler Anderson
Editor, The Graphic-Advocate

Fareway agrees to set up pilot store in Rockwell City

Since opening its first store in 1938, Fareway Stores have been known for clean aisles, personalized carryout service, competitive prices, the signature meat counter and its produce section.

Over the course of eight decades, the grocery chain has spread its unique brand from its Boone headquarters to all throughout Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Fareway is now bringing the shield of quality and value to Rockwell City.

During their meeting, held on March 15 at City Hall, the City Council of Rockwell City voted to accept the agreement between the regional grocer and the Golden Buckle on the Corn Belt via Resolution 21-04. This resolution was approved following a meeting between the council and Koby Pritchard, Attorney and Real Estate Manager for Fareway Stores, Inc.

The new location is slated to open its doors by March of 2022, and would be located off of County Road D36, just west of Sunnyview Independent Living.

While the resolution is just the beginning, it was huge for Rockwell City Mayor Phil Heinlen. For the past 14 months, Heinlen spearheaded the effort to bring a grocer back to Rockwell City following the closure of Heartland Market at the end of 2019.

“We wanted to get our foot in the door and test the waters,” Heinlen said of the process to bring Fareway to the heart of Calhoun County. “Fareway seemed interested in talking, so we jumped on their bus and we rode it hard. We almost wore the tires out.”

“(Fareway) has been excellent to work with,” Heinlen continued. “(Pritchard) and a few other people that we have visited with are really good folks. We’re just excited. By looking at (Fareway CEO Reynolds Cramer) on television, you can tell that he’s a unique guy, but he’s also really serious about what he does. So, I think that the adventure is going to be really fun.”

City Clerk Kelly Smidt also expressed excitement for the upcoming project.

“We are very excited, and it’s going to be great for Rockwell City,” Smidt said. “There are good things going on here, and it just adds to it. A lot of people have been waiting for a grocery store to come back.”

Not only would Fareway set up shop in the seat of Calhoun County, the grocer is ushering in a new concept store, tailored towards smaller towns. Compared to the standard Fareway building, which starts off at 13,000 square feet, the pilot store would take up 10,800 square feet of space.

“We were seeing certain independent grocers close, and knew that there was a need for a grocery store in these smaller markets,” Pritchard said. “The mayor reached out to Fareway and asked about what our interest level would be. At that point, we didn’t have a concrete plan of where we wanted to start this new concept, but we knew that we wanted to look at it.”

According to Pritchard, it was a matter of distance between locations, population size and status as a county seat.

“We were trying to find what market would be a good one to put forth this condensed version of Fareway that can serve a smaller market like Rockwell City,” Pritchard said. “As we started talking with Smidt, who did a lot of work on this too, it just started to make sense for us.”

The more compact Fareway would have different aesthetics for its storefront, compared to its usual brick and mortar buildings. However, once you enter, it would resemble a traditional Fareway store.

“It’s going to be a little different on the outside, but that’s going to be it,” Pritchard said. “You’re going to walk in and it’s going to feel like your standard Fareway experience.”

Thanks to Fareway planning to plant roots in Rockwell City next year, Heinlen stated that there might be other business ventures in that vicinity.

“We may have some company for Fareway at some point, but it’s still a long ways off,” Heinlen said.

For the moment, the next steps would entail land acquisition and rezoning the property to commercial status.

Coupled with recent developments – such as the arrival of Iowa Select Farms’ Warehouse and Conference Center, the Calhoun County Business Park, Jonathan Wetter’s refurbishment of a former general store into a mixed-use building and the arrival of Webster-Calhoun Cooperative Telephone Association’s fiber optic network – the outlook is optimistic within City Hall.

Along with vital projects, Rockwell City’s cause has been bolstered by the presence of Rockwell City Revitalization, Rockwell City Chamber & Development, the Rockwell City Rotary Club and the Rockwell City Lions Club.

“There are a lot of good things happening in Rockwell City right now,” Smidt said. “Hopefully, people will want to come here. People see things happening, which leads to more good things happening. We also have a lot of good groups that are working to do more for the quality of life in Rockwell City and to improve the area, region and the county. It helps everyone.”

Heinlen echoed Smidt’s words, and praised Jill Heisterkamp of the Calhoun County Economic Development Corporation.

“We’re looking at some growth, and that’s super important,” Heinlen said. “The alternative is not good, and we were kind of heading down that track. Now, we’re getting it turned around. Growth leads to growth, and we’re just hoping to do well here.”

“We would be remised to not mention (Heisterkamp) and Jeff Fistler at Sunnyview,” Heinlen added. “They both have been part of a four-person committee here. They helped us a lot.”

Pritchard also reciprocated the praise back to Smidt and Heinlen, as well as local entities.

“Fareway is very fortunate to work with the mayor and Kelly,” Pritchard said. “Calhoun County Economic Development was also part of those discussions. Over the 14-month process, they have been absolutely awesome to work with. We’re really looking forward to working with everyone more and, by this time next year, opening up a new Fareway. We really appreciate their help.”

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