By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer
KIESTER — When Kiester’s sole grocery store suddenly closed in late June, city officials began searching for a new owner.
Five months later they’re still searching, with a recent setback prompting them to consider Plan B.
“We’ve appointed a city task force that will look into doing it as a co-op,” Mayor Jeanne Brooks said. “But we’re still hopeful; we’re continually in search of someone to come in and run it.”
That’s proven to be a tough sell in the 500-resident Faribault County community. Brooks said the city approached four area grocers about assuming ownership but to no avail.
“They came and toured the store but didn’t think it would be feasible for them.”
Recently the city approached the store’s one-time owner Nick Graham, who operates a grocery in northern Iowa and in 2006 was billed as the nation’s youngest grocer when at 17 he took over the distressed grocery in Truman.
Brooks said Graham was interested in the Kiester operation but was unsuccessful in getting the loan funding he sought.
Meantime, Kiester residents continue to go out of town to buy groceries. The nearest supermarket is in Wells, a 32-mile round trip that is particularly problematic for many of the town’s older residents, Brooks said.
When the store’s most recent owner Brad Gohla abruptly shuttered the business, he also did so with grocery markets he owned in Truman and Elysian.
Those towns remain without stores as well despite ongoing efforts to secure new ownership.