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Jasper County Tribune

'We are still going to be the Kountry Korner'

Kountry Korner traditions continue despite new name, owners

BAXTER – Since 1962, Baxter Oil Company has served passersby as they made their way through Highway F17.

Since he was 7 years old, Bryan DeJong watched his father grow the business. As soon as he and his wife Karen took over operations, the corner gas station transformed from a regular, old-fashion service station to a home not just for the DeJong family, but the entire town of Baxter.

Despite the family announcing the sale of the Baxter staple after more than 50 years of business, the family values will continue on with the new owners.

And they said they are looking forward to getting to know Baxter.

“(Baxter) is a close-knit community. People know each other. It is fun to be in a town like this. It makes (the transition) a lot easier because the people are so inviting,” Jake Kimmes, Country Stores of Iowa supervisor said. “I have three brothers, two of which are involved in the business. My father and my mom also are involved in the business ... My family’s background is in convenience stores. We worked for a larger company for quite a long time. I started working at a convenience store when I was 11.”

Since March 13, the Kimmes family has been running the gas station in Baxter. From familiar faces to the same tasty eats, visitors may have not even noticed anything different other than the new blue polos the staff is sporting.

Kimmes said this was no accident. Although the family has only run Country Stores of Iowa for about four years, they said their long background running convenience stores has shown them the impact stores can have on the communities they serve.

With Baxter Oil Company’s long history of serving the town of 1,100, the new owners said they wanted to make sure they handled the transition with care.

“We are in some communities that are as small as 800 people. We are in some communities that are as large as 13,000. Coming into a small town like this, people rely on this. It is the only place people can get fuel,” Kimmes said. “We are going to make some changes along the way, but we found it was easier to just gradually do it ... most of those changes will be in the food program, but where we have done it in the past, it will be good.”

One of the major changes Country Stores of Iowa will implement at its Baxter location will be its “Piccadilly Pizza” program and its “Never Better Burger.” He said from patties made from raw meat to pizza crust proofed on site, patrons should expect a fresh experience when trying their new offerings.

Kimmes said despite updating the signage and branding of the store to reflect the new owners, they plan to continue offering the aspects Kountry Korner is known for, from the daily specials to the crunchy tacos.

“They obviously had a working food program for a long time and it has been successful. Really, there is nothing much to change. We will just keep doing what they’ve been doing, make a few tweaks here and there, and that is what the plan is,” Kimmes said. “When you have a business that did a good job, it makes it a lot easier. Why do you need to re-invent the wheel when it is ready rolling?”

The Carroll-based company runs 13 stores across western and central Iowa. As a majority of Country Stores of Iowa properties serve small towns like Baxter, Kimmes said it is one of their priorities to get involved with the community and help wherever they can.

“We knew Bryan and Karen were really involved. Knowing where they were at, what we have done in the past and what we continue to do, we knew it was going to be a fit for us,” Kimmes said. “Here, we already got involved by donating the candy for (last Thursday’s) Easter egg hunt (at Accura Healthcare). We are a Chamber of Commerce member in every community that we are in, as long as they have a chamber.”

The store supervisor said while Baxter Oil Company and Kountry Korner signs may change in the next few months, the traditions, values and service the corner store has been known for the last several decades will continue well into the future.

“We are still going to be the Kountry Korner,” Kimmes said. “We are still going to be here.”

Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at areyes@jaspercountytribune.com

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