By Nikki McKim
The Board of Directors of Downtown Modernization, Inc. announced the sale of the former Falls City Shopko building to Hy-Vee Inc. of West Des Moines, IA, an employee-owned grocery chain that operates in eight states.
Hy-Vee has been purchasing vacant Shopko locations and converting them into Hy-Vee Dollar Fresh grocery stores in rural communities.
“This appears to be a great concept and a very desirable use for our building,” said Marc Morehead, President of the Downtown Modernization group which owns the building, in a released statement obtained by the Journal. “It is well in keeping with our primary goal of stabilizing the downtown Falls City area and we look forward to many years of operation at 1300 Stone Street for Hy-Vee.”
Dollar Fresh locations are designed to offer customers a fresh, new product selection at low prices in smaller communities. They offer a full selection of grocery items, a bakery section with a full range of freshly baked items, a dollar section, a wall of value, ready to eat meal offerings and other services.
Shopko filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2019, citing “excess debt.” The company announced two months later that it would liquidate its remaining stores because executives could not find a buyer.
More about the history of Downtown Modernization, Inc.
The Downtown Modernization’s Board of directors includes Marc Morehead, President; Dorothy Towle; Secretary/Treasurer Roger Kiekhaefer; and Vice President Andy Armbruster.
In early 1973 a group of downtown business and community minded people, led by three financial institutions of Falls City, got together to devise a plan for the demolition of dilapidated old buildings, the acquisition of free parking lots, and the possibility of attracting a large discount store to downtown Falls City, according to Marc Morehead. The group had watched as other cities succumb to the development of shopping centers at the edge of town, which drained off traffic needed to keep their downtowns afloat.
Over the years, deterioration had set in and was most pronounced in a four-block area of downtown Falls City. There, dilapidating retail buildings and homes were no longer contributing much and begged for some urban renewal. The group formed a corporation and members of the Falls City community invested in the new corporation.
A proposal was made to a company that was considering a Falls City location at the town’s edge. The approach was: “We will build a 32,000 sq. ft. building suitable for a store such as yours. We are going to tear down and revitalize an entire area and install five new parking lots. If you are interested, we will build to your specifications. If not, we will find a different company needing a downtown location.”
Over sixty individuals invested, many small merchants, even those in direct competition with a new store. They reasoned that the increased traffic would benefit them if they would help win a downtown location. Retired friends, professionals and farm customers joined the merchants investing. Shortly before Christmas, 1974, a new 32,000 sq. ft. Gibson’s store was opened. Gibson’s later became Pamida and then Shopko.
The parking lot at 1614-1918 Chase Street and 1301 Stone street are still in use as parking lots. The lot at 1514 Chase was sold to what is now Great Western Bank for additional parking. The lot at 1403 Harlan Street was sold to Kwik Shop for their store. The lot at 1305 Harlan was sold to Sonic Drive-In. The lot at 1400 Stone Street was donated for part of the new Falls City Library and Arts Center. The half bock at 1400 Chase Street was sold to the Richardson County Historical Society.