LENOX, Iowa -- A small-town grocery store recently won a Renew Rural Iowa Award from the Farm Bureau. The award recognizes innovative businesses in rural Iowa.
Four years ago, Theo and Bonnie Ramsey returned to her home town of Lenox to purchase the grocery store.
Lenox Mayor Melissa Douglas said when the prior owners put the store up for sale, some were nervous, fearing the store might not remain open selling groceries.
“The next closest thing is 20 miles away, so if you need some milk, or some ingredient for a recipe, you don’t want to run 20 miles away to get this,” said Douglas.
The Ramseys were considering this purchase, but they had no grocery experience. They came out the military music groups, as they are both are singers.
"Bonnie found out the store was for sale. I’d always been bugging her about owning a business, a food business, never thought about a grocery store,” said Theo Ramsey. "After a lot of soul-searching we just thought, let’s try it let’s do this!"
The Ramseys soon found out they didn’t know, what they didn’t know.
“We were dizzy for about eight months straight there was so much, you’re drinking from a fire hose when you have never owned a business before,” said Theo. “There’s so many things you never thought of.”
The Ramseys went out to get everything they would need, in terms of shelving. They looked at re-purposing, and even picked up some carts and shelves at an old Younkers store in Des Moines.
“You just put your nose to the grind stone and get going, as a small independent business owner you don’t have the funds the corporates do, so we try to play that strength, and re-purpose as our unique niche it also helps on your books.” said Bonnie.
The store also offers the Two Buck Truck, an enclosed three wheel vehicle delivers groceries in Lenox for $2.00, or free if the order is over $50.
The couple learned one thing. The profit margin on groceries, was small, so they needed to do everything they could to get shoppers in the door. One thing they began doing is offering live music in the store. Sometimes they have guest musicians, other times they sing to customers, while walking the aisles of the store. They installed a karaoke like PA which you can hear Bonnie belting out popular tunes.
“We have a background in music and entertainment, so we thought, why not, lets see if this works who doesn’t love a good show,” said Theo.
The Ramseys were recognized by Farm Bureau with the Renew Rural Iowa Entrepreneur Award.
"Part of it is Iowa rated terribly in entrepreneurial development and we knew it wasn’t true,” said Sandy Ehrig, of Farm Bureau Economic Development. “We have those companies, we didn’t tell those stories well, so that’s part of our mission is that let’s lift it up how can we inspire other people to have an understanding.”
Anyone can nominate a rural Iowa company they feel is worthy of recognition.
“Bonnie and Theo have been so instrumental in revitalizing not just their store, but other areas in the community,” Michell Tullberg of the Lenox Chamber of Commerce. “They’ve jumped on board on the City Council, and on the Promotions Board of the Chamber.”
The Ramseys have purchased a building next door, which they plan to open an Ace Hardware store, which will also include a bar, as a part of the operation.
The Ramseys held a street dance last summer, and plan another big event in 2019.
For information on what is going on at Ramsey Market, click here.
For more information on Farm Bureau Renew Rural Iowa, click here.