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Longtime employee purchases Hometown Foods in Waterloo

May 18, 2019

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — Jill Eilderts was a college student looking to earn some extra money when she began working as a cashier at Adams Grocery Store in 1987.

More than 32 years later, Eilderts and her husband, Doug, are owners of the longtime neighborhood store currently known as Hometown Foods.

The couple recently bought the business from Lyndon and Joani Johnson, who had operated the store since 2003, and plan to keep providing their customers with the same goods and services they’ve come to expect.

Jill Eilderts said she hopes the customers won’t even notice the difference.

“The name is not changing,” she told Cedar Valley Business Monthly. “I’m trying to keep everything the same as much as I can to have a seamless transition for the employees and customers.”

Eilderts began working at the store when it was owned by Ron Adams and has been there through three different owners. She worked as the office manager and has been the store manager for the past 11 years.

“I told the owner if he ever decided to sell the store I wanted first crack,” she said. “I’ve lived in town my whole life. The most important thing for me is that it’s locally owned again.”

The Johnsons, who also operate Hometown Foods stores in Traer, Hubbard, Gladbrook, State Center and Conrad, said they were “proud and excited” to have Eilderts buy the business.

“Jill has been a very significant part of our Hometown Foods’ management team and will be greatly missed,” they said in a news release. “That being said, I am certain that she is well prepared and will flourish in her new position as store owner.”

The history of the store, located on the edge of Liberty Park, goes back nearly 70 years.

Black’s West Side Supermarket built the store in 1951. Sun Mart acquired the business in 1958 before selling it to the Adams family in 1972.

Eilderts noted the store has adapted to the changing neighborhood over the years, most recently adding an aisle of Bosnian products to accommodate the large number of immigrants who settled there in the 1990s.

“I think (the store) is very important to the neighborhood,” Eilderts said. “But the neighborhood is very important to us, too.”

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Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, http://www.wcfcourier.com