ROCKWELL CITY — It’s been about a year and a half since Rockwell City was home to a grocery store.
But thanks to Fareway Stores Inc., that drought will be coming to an end in early 2022. That’s when a new Fareway store is projected to be built and ready for operation.
The new store will be located at 339 E. High St. It will occupy between 8,000 and 10,000 square feet.
“It’s a huge deal,” said Mayor Phil Heinlen on Tuesday during a groundbreaking ceremony. “For this size of community to be without a grocery store is not fun. We have been without one for about a year-and-a-half and we still have a ways to go. But we found a friend in Fareway. They are going to build and we are going to enjoy it when it’s done.”
Rockwell City’s last grocery store, Heartland Market, closed in early 2020. Since that time, Heinlen said most residents have traveled to Lake City, Fort Dodge or Carroll for their grocery needs.
“Some have gone to Lake City — they have a really nice family store,” Heinlen said. “There is now the co-op store in Manson and of course Fort Dodge and Carroll.”
Reynolds W. Cramer, president and chief executive officer, said the Fareway store in Rockwell City will be similar in size to one that opened in Colfax in recent months. Colfax has a population of about 2,000 — similar to Rockwell City.
“Many of these towns in Iowa that don’t have stores, that are sitting there somewhere between 1,500 and 2,500 population — it’s a tough place from the standpoint of how do you secure a grocery store?” Cramer said. “You have to have so many customers to make things work and this community was one that demonstrated that not only did the people in the community, but the city, the economic team, everyone came together to make this work.”
Cramer added, “We are excited to try one of our new experimental, smaller footprints in a community like this. And we really feel that we are going to have the support to make this work.”
A typical Fareway store is between 20,000 and 30,000 square feet, Cramer said.
“It puts us in a position that once again, from a business perspective, we can make it work,” Cramer said. “And it’s big enough that we have enough of the right products for all of the consumers in the area.”
John Hepp, mayor pro-tem, described the addition of Fareway as a “great asset” to the community and the region.
“We are so thrilled and proud to have Fareway come to the community,” Hepp said. “This is a $2 million investment by Fareway in our community and will provide 20-plus jobs. Not to mention the only grocery store in Rockwell City area. This will make a significant impact to our area and we are grateful to Fareway for this.”
Trish Mernka, executive director for the city’s Chamber, said she has been a lifetime shopper of Fareway.
“I have fond childhood memories of shopping at Fareway with my mother, my grandmother,” Mernka said.
She particularly remembers her grandmother constantly keeping a stock of the mini Fastco sodas.
“We made homemade floats with (those),” Mernka said. “I hope the families in our community will enjoy memories like this as well.”
Mernka said Fareway stores have consistently provided quality products and service.
“While visiting with a good friend this last week, both of us agreed that neither of us has ever had an unpleasant shopping experience in any of the different Fareway stores we have shopped at in our lifetime,” Mernka said. “I think that speaks very highly of this company. Fareway is an excellent addition and will pave the way for exciting new job opportunities for Rockwell CIty residents, Calhoun County and beyond.”
Fastco was a Fareway store-brand label that has been phased out. There were also stores that operated under the Fastco name.
“When we had Fastcos they were smaller in scale and kind of a community that was maybe not large enough for a regular-sized store,” Cramer said. “And so as we have progressed and now as a company 83 years old, we have moved away from the Fastco and gone just to the Fareway brand. We are excited to have a new store in this community that will be a new concept and a new building.”
Cramer admitted the new store will likely pull customers away from its Fort Dodge Fareway store.
“Sadly, our friends at Fareway in Fort Dodge and other communities might not see some of your faces anymore,” Cramer said. “That’s OK because we want to help this community continue to grow and be a catalyst for more economic growth.”
Cramer said he visited with a community member in Rockwell City who is looking forward to the store opening up.
“I was here a few months ago right next door to the highway here and talked to that gentleman in that beautiful home and said what do you think about having a store across the street and having some lights from trucks and things like that. And he said, ‘I love it. I can’t wait. Because I won’t have to drive far away to get my groceries.’ I think we will have that support from everyone in the community.”