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An ode to Hy-Vee West

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 12:14 p.m. CDT

A long, long time ago, in a land far, far away there was a small grocery store that sat on the main street of a small town.

It was old and quaint, and rather dusty, but it’s flawed beauty and rare authenticity made it oddly appealing to to those who lived nearby.

The people who went to the store were loyal customers, but, like all good things, its time had come to an inevitable end.

Compared to the new stores of today, with shelves full of endless options and departments with impeccable window presentations, it’s no wonder that such an old, out of style, limited store would be shut down.  

After the announcement of a new, contemporary and capacious grocery store underway across town, the stores’ corporate leaders decided the smaller of the two was no longer suitable, or profitable enough, to adequately provide its neighbors with all of their essential dinner needs.

When they look at the decrepit and abandoned building that sits just off the road on the north side of First Ave. West. and ask what it used to be, that’s the story I’ll tell my loved ones.

I’ll also tell them that at 16-years-old, I got my first job there, worked all throughout high school and occasionally during college breaks.

In the summer of 2007, I returned to Newton for a year after living in Iowa City, and at the time, I was pessimistic about the likelihood of developing new, good friendships in town, but quickly life proved me wrong.

Shortly after working at the store, any worry or thought about not being able to reintegrate disappeared from my mind by new or re-established friendships built with co-workers.  

We grew up in that (small, dinky and dirty) store which we took for granted all those years. We were a family.

At a small store, employees and regular customers create valuable bonds too. I still remember what family drinks Pepsi products or who bought the most fresh produce, the brand of cigarettes people prefered and who wanted drive-up for their groceries.

I was unfortunately reminded about how important of a role the store had played in years of growing up and self discovery a few weeks ago, when an old co-worker and friend from the store suddenly passed away.

What followed was a strange phone chain with fellow co-workers, forced to notify each other about the sad, untimely loss of our friend.

At the visitation were old management from near and far, other staff, friends and even some of those regular customers came to pay their respects.

The new store is as beautiful as we would have liked and knew it would be, and as much as I complain about its size, I do appreciate its diverse products and the luxuries it provides. Its employees are as helpful as ever and it’s much cleaner than the old store, but, there’s something impersonal about a big store.

The past few weeks, I’ve been glancing at the old store when driving by. I think about all the laughs I’ve had there and all of the good times many of the customers had.

I wish I could pull into the parking lot and run inside for something, but nothing’s there except a bunch of good memories.

No more conveient stop for chicken broth on Thanksgiving day or parking 20 feet from the door.

In memory of Justin McBride (1976-2013)

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