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Fareway and managers celebrate 20th anniversary

Second generations learning values carting groceries
Myron Hoffman stands outside the North Liberty Fareway store he helped open with Meat Manager Mike Taylor 20 years ago. A renovation of the store was completed in December. (photo by Doug Lindner)

NORTH LIBERTY- You can learn a lot of basic skills working for a grocery store.
Like being punctual.
Myron Hoffman was the tender age of 16 when he started work at the Fareway Store in his hometown of Carroll, after school let out his junior year in high school.
He knows the date by heart.
May 28, 1980.
“It was a Wednesday, 6 a.m.,” the North Liberty Fareway grocery manager recalled.
He’s been with the Boone-based chain ever since.
In 1999, Hoffman and Meat Manager Mike Taylor opened the North Liberty Fareway when the city was a growing little town of about 5,500, and the company completed a remodel of the store in December.
It was Hoffman’s first position as grocery manager.
He started as a stocker in Carroll, and went to full time after he graduated from high school. Hoffman and his wife Vicki started a family, two boys and a girl, and relocated to LeMars in 1988. After two years, he accepted an assistant grocery manager position in Grinnell and was there for over four years. After a short stay in Washington, he moved his family to Des Moines to open a new Fareway on the southeast side.
In March of 1999, he opened another new store, this one a 22,310 square-foot Fareway on 2.5 acres of land at the intersection of Highway 965 and Westwood Drive in North Liberty.
Hoffman knew he’d have to move again, but had never turned down an opportunity with Fareway.
And once he was grocery manager, it was his option to stay.
“I guess I’m still here, that means I did something right,” he mused.
His first real look at North Liberty came a week and a half before the store opened.
With his two youngest in junior high and oldest in high school, he chose to put down roots. Hoffman purchased his first house and still lives there.
“Over the years I’ve always considered myself very fortunate to be asked to come to North Liberty,” he reflected. “The area provides all of my needs. Anything you want is close by.”
Not that he had an opportunity early on to take advantage.
“At the time that I began managing here, I didn’t have time for anything except for spending time with family and work,” Hoffman explained. “Opening a new store is a large responsibility and it takes a lot of dedication to your job for the first several years.”
Back in Carroll when his kids were young, he spent his occasional spare time cutting custom craft supplies for two ladies, a second job he took with him to his next three towns. He’s built a lot of small furniture items, including coat racks, cabinets and cedar chests.
Growing up on a farm, he learned to tinker and used to repair his own cars. He doesn’t hunt anymore, but enjoys fishing and hiking and a few holes of golf here and there.
“Those opportunities are endless around here,” he noted. “We’ve thoroughly enjoyed this area. Everything you need or want for opportunities, this area offers.”
Meat Manager Mike Taylor has also been a fixture of the North Liberty store since its opening.
“We are equals,” Hoffman explained. “I do not manage him. He manages the meat department.”
Each other department has an assistant manager, and those each have full- and part-time staff.
“But we’re all one store,” he noted. “We’re all one team.”
There are long timers in the North Liberty store, but only Hoffman and Taylor have been there since the beginning. A lot of the other employees are like Hoffman was when he started- in high school.
He’s happy with the opening of Liberty High.
“We’ve got a lot of Liberty kids,” Hoffman said. “And I love having Liberty kids because they can get to work earlier in the afternoon.”
Student workers coming from West High often have to go through a bus ride and getting to Fareway by 5 p.m. was a pinch.
“It makes a big difference,” he said. “It helps us out tremendously.”
Over two decades, a lot of those kids have come and gone.
Some have come back as adults with children.
“The kid that I hired 20 years ago as a 14-year-old brings his family in here now,” Hoffman said. “I see a lot of that.”
And former part-timers in other towns where he worked come in with their families, having moved to the area.
“Yeah, that ages me a little bit,” he admitted. “But the best part of it is when I get parents come back in and tell me where their kids are today and let me know that Fareway was one of the best jobs that they had to prepare them for real life.”
Fareway is a family-friendly first job- the store closes at 9 p.m. and isn’t open on Sundays. Young employees learn about customer service, how to react or not react, he said, and it provides experience dealing with the public.
“You get to meet all kinds of different people, you deal with all kinds of different situations,” he noted.
Fareway is one of Iowa’s largest employers, with over 121 stores in five states. Founded in 1938 in Boone, it helped introduce an element of self-service to grocery stores, allowing customers to pick their own items off the shelves and place them in a rolling cart.
The name Fareway was selected to convey several meanings, according to the company website. The business hoped to provide a wide range of fare and treat customers and employees fairly, values that reflected the hard-working people of the Midwest, who understood the value of a dollar.
Value is a hallmark of the Fareway chain, Hoffman said. The chain is popular because families can make the most of their grocery budget without sacrificing quality.
“Fareway is known for its meats, there’s no doubt about it,” Hoffman said. “It says meat and groceries on the outside of the store.”
The competitiveness of the industry has changed a lot over the years, but at the same time, the Corridor area has grown and it still provides room for everyone, he said.
The remodel of the North Liberty store was started in September and finished the first part of December. The store layout was completely reset with new refrigeration units, lighting and shelving, and an additional half-aisle was gained in the process.
It’s all part of continued service to customers for Hoffman.
“I always thank them for their patronage,” he said. “We’re happy to continue that into the future.”