How will Hy-Vee fare with latest expansion plans?

Hy-Vee has announced plans to expand its empire to Indiana, Tennessee, and Alabama in 2023.

The West Des Moines chain plans 20 new stores over the next four years, per a report from the Supermarket News.

This aggressive expansion follows Hy-Vee cutting 121 corporate jobs — about 8% of its corporate staff, per an Axios report. Most of the cuts were in marketing and IT. Hy-Vee was also cutting back the number of stores offering Aisles Online, the company’s service that shops for customers who order online and either pick up their groceries or have them delivered.

Aisles Online was so popular during the early days of the pandemic that it was nearly impossible to get a delivery spot. Apparently, as restrictions have lifted, so has the demand to pay other people to do their shopping.

This expansion worries me. Hy-Vee is doing well. Hy-Vee ranked as the 24th largest privately owned company, per Forbes.

Yet I worry.

There once was a dominant grocery chain named Dahl’s. Founded by Wolverine Thilbert Dahl, the chain was known for innovation. They invented drive-thru grocery pick-up. The first debit card transactions in the country took place at Dahl’s on Ingersoll Avenue. 

Dahl’s was among the first chains to have an in-store pharmacy, a sit-down deli, and a bakery. Much of what we think of as standard stuff for a supermarket started with or was heavily promoted by Dahl’s.

But W.T. Dahl tried expansion. He opened stores in Missouri in 1979, attempting to crack the Kansas City market. Dahl’s struggled and after 18 years, pulled out of Missouri. Dahl later said the money and effort poured into expansion in Missouri allowed Hy-Vee to become the top chain in Des Moines.

Dahl’s never recovered. It fell behind on the most important measure in the business: prices.

The chain filed for bankruptcy in 2014 and it was bought by a Kansas City, Kansas, food distributor which rebranded the remaining Dahl’s stores Price Chopper.

Hy-Vee is in a much better position to expand than Dahl’s ever was.

The chain founded in 1930 by Charles Hyde and David Vredenburg already has more than 280 locations in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

It sure seems like they know what they’re doing.

Then again, I miss the old Hy-Vee sit-down deli. They replaced those with supposedly classier restaurants with wine and beer. I don’t think fine dining when I think Hy-Vee, but it seems to be working for them.

Hy-Vee is also tied up with this Wahlburger franchise. I’ve not heard many positive reviews of Wahlburger’s food. I’ve not been there. I’m not a big Mark Wahlberg, the actor and chain’s co-owner with his family.

One of the stores in Wisconsin has a nail salon and its own line of clothing.

That’s a bridge too far in my mind.

You can try to sell me all the varieties of kumquats you want, but don’t push high fashion on me when I’m just there to grab bread, milk, and eggs.

The duty of every CEO is to make more money than the year before. I accept that.

I’m not sold that Hy-Vee is going about this in the right way.

But what do I know?

In my lifetime, Hy-Vee faced challenges from Hinky Dinky, SuperValue, and Safeway. Those stores are all ghosts. Hy-Vee is still standing and expanding.

In the late 1990s, Albertsons invested in the Des Moines market heavily with both supermarkets and their Osco Drug Stores. Albertsons is now the second-largest grocery store chain in America, but you won’t find one in central Iowa.

Hy-Vee whipped them.

The largest chain in America is Kroger. And Hy-Vee will be going into their turf when they roll into Tennessee and Alabama.

But Hy-Vee already duels Kroger in the competitive Omaha grocery market. They’re both still standing.

Maybe I shouldn’t worry about Hy-Vee.

What a story it could be: The little town store from Beaconsfield rises up to be one of the great supermarket success stories of all time.

Then again, I remember going to the Hinky Dinky in the Beaverdale neighborhood of Des Moines. There was a butcher named Sam, which my sister and I thought was hilarious because Alice from “The Brady Bunch” dated a barber named Sam. I bought my first comics off the wire rack by the magazine stand there.

The lot is a Walgreens now.

There are always winners and losers in business.

I hope Hy-Vee is on the right side of this one.

Former journalist and future teacher Daniel P. Finney writes columns for the Marion County Express. Reach him at newsmanone@gmail.com.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
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The Oscars just keep getting easier to ignore

They held the Oscars on Sunday.

I didn’t watch.

I played Van Morrison’s greatest hits while I made lesson plans for school.

The Academy nominated Morrison for “Best Original Song.” He didn’t win; that was as close as I came to the Oscars.

I used to watch the Oscars as a boy. I grew up in Winterset in the days before the rehab of the Iowa Theater. My parents and I seldom went to movies in Des Moines.

The kinds of movies I wanted to see weren’t the kinds of movies that won Oscars.

But I liked movies a lot.

I watched the Oscars to see clips of the movies.

I watched “At the Movies” with Chicago movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert when it was on PBS for the same reason.

These clips proved cultural crib notes. My friends seemed to see more movies than me, so I would memorize the scenes I saw on Siskel and Ebert or the Oscars and pretend I’d seen the films.

I wanted to fit in more in my younger days.

The watched the Oscars in 1998. I rooted for “As Good as It Gets,” one of my favorite films with Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, and Greg Kinnear.

The three actors took the top awards, but the movie lost to “Titanic,” which I hadn’t seen and still have not seen.

The media, as it often does, beat me senseless with stories about how much people loved “Titanic,” how girls swooned as Leonardo DiCaprio slid off the door and died. The radio lambasted me with that tortuous Celine Dion song, “My Heart Will Go On.”

I hated “Titanic” having not watched a frame. That’s terribly unfair, but when it comes to entertainment, I reserve the right to be irrational.

This leads me to the 2022 edition of the Oscars.

I saw two of the Best Picture nominees, “Nightmare Alley” and “Licorice Pizza,” especially the latter. I’m a sucker for a good coming-of-age movie.

The movie that won, “CODA,” I knew nothing about and had heard nothing about before the Oscars.

I probably won’t watch it. It streams on Apple+; I have more pressing financial needs.

I saw Andrew Garfield and Benedict Cumberbatch were up for Best Actor, but it turns out not for the film I saw them in: “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

The biggest problem with the Oscars is that it’s boring. I don’t care about what the actors wear on the red carpet nor do I care about their thoughts on Russia’s war against Ukraine or even the evening’s event.

Therein lies the Oscar’s’ other biggest problem: Somebody is always selling their worldview and labeling anyone who disagrees as some kind of hate monger.

Actors are artists and, as such, often passionate. I am a writer, a kind of artist, and I am often passionate.

Actors have aired their political beliefs at the Oscars for decades.

Marlon Brando famously sent a Sacheen Littlefeather to the 1973 awards ceremony to refuse his Oscar for playing crime boss Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.”

Littlefeather spoke against the stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in film and chastised the United States government for its violation of treaties.

This sort of thing started before I was born and continues.

I don’t know what political drumbeats were struck Sunday.

I do know Will Smith punched Chris Rock over Rock’s joke about his wife, which is either a new low or a new high for the Oscars. I really don’t know how to tell the difference.

Before the show, I know Sean Penn threatened to smelt both of his Oscars if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy were not allowed to speak.

I would think Zelenskyy would have better things to do than talk to the swells of Hollywood. My understanding is the Russians are murdering civilians, blowing up hospitals, and waging war against Ukraine.

I fail to see what an appearance on the Oscars does for Ukrainians, other than make a collection of America’s richest and most detached from reality people feel slightly more important.

Russia’s actions in the Ukraine are abhorrent. They make me sad for people displaced and killed for seemingly no reason.

The atrocities scare me. If the U.S. gets directly involved, that raises the threat of nuclear war to its highest point since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

That’s the endgame.

These kind of world events reminds us how small we are. I can empathize, cry, protest, and shake my fist at the sky about what Russia is doing all I want.

But it will do nothing other than shake up my already jangled nerves and blood pressure.

This must be hard for celebrities. People look up to them. They see them as leaders and heroes, even though they really are not.

It must be especially hard for celebrities to face a crisis like the war in Ukraine.

Their outsized fame misleads them into thinking their speechifying can change the world the way their characters do on screen.

They can’t.

They, like the rest of us, can do other things: Donate to the Red Cross, the world’s greatest humanitarian organization or support other groups that help refugees.

Nothing said on the Oscars by celebrities will matter either.

There was a political dust-up at the 1978 Oscars. You can look up the details online, but presenter Paddy Chayefsky, the writer of the excellent movie “Network,” said, in part, “winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation, and a simple ‘thank you’ would have sufficed.’”

Former journalist and future teacher Daniel P. Finney writes columns for the Marion County Express.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
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Venmo@newsmanone.
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Bill to remove teacher test is an A+ idea

A bill that would remove testing as a requirement for teaching licenses is before the Iowa Senate. 

It passed the House unanimously. 

Dear Iowa Senate, please pass this bill and get it under Gov. Kim Reynolds pen at once. 

I rarely speak publicly about political issues anymore, but I confess my vested interest in this one. 

I’m student teaching this semester and if this bill doesn’t pass, I’ll have to file a blizzard of paperwork and pay $300 to a private testing company for evaluation. 

If I pass the evaluation, I’ve finally earned the right to pay the state $165 for a license to do a job so very few people want to do for wages that impress no one.

A $300 fee may sound small. If you took your car to the mechanic with a “rattle rattle, thump, bang bang” and walked out for less than $300, you’d be thrilled. 

But that’s not the whole picture. 

My tuition at Drake University this semester was more than $12,000.

Yes, I could have gone through a different school with lower tuition, this is a master’s program.

I’m 46 years old. I can’t afford to start over to the fresh-out-of-college salary scale. Most districts will start a new teacher with a master’s degree in a higher pay lane. 

Student loans funded every dollar of my last two years of school. I’ll be paying that until I die. 

So it goes. I’m pretty sure dying in debt is basically the same as dying rich. 

What’s another $300 on top of that?

It’s more principle than anything.

Presently, there are two kinds of tests you can take to earn a license. One is a pair of exams, one for general teaching and another specific to your discipline such as English or math.

The other is a complex collection of video recorded work with students, unit plans, and essays with 17 different rubrics.

Both tracks cost $300. 

You generally take them as you’re student teaching. 

Student teaching is the capstone of education school for both undergraduates and graduate students. 

You worked side-by-side with an experienced teacher for roughly four months, including leading classes for four to six weeks. 

Student teachers are not paid. 

They are working full time. They are not getting paid. 

You are actively discouraged from having a part-time job, though some of my classmates do. 

How they handle it is beyond me. Student teaching is the most taxing thing I’ve ever done. The level of executive function — the sheer amount of stuff you have to keep straight — is staggering. 

I come home from days and collapse into bed by 7 p.m. 

As a student teacher, I’m evaluated twice a week by a mentor teacher — usually a retired teacher interested in passing along good pedagogy to a new generation. 

I’m observed nearly every minute by my classroom teacher. 

I talk regularly about progress with both teachers and my professors at Drake. Our class has weekly seminar meetings — also a class I have to pay for. 

In the end, I need three letters of recommendation from people who have seen me teach. 

If I haven’t impressed my classroom teacher or my supervising teacher, I’m in trouble. 

My point is this: How many tests are enough?

I’ve taken pedagogy. I’ve taken subject classes. I lived the journalism. 

I’m constantly observed and have excelled at an accredited university that sets its standards in line with both the state and the latest ideas on teaching teachers. 

The thing is, the test isn’t a measure of potential in a future teacher.

It isn’t even a measure of how good they are at taking tests or writing rubrics. 

It’s a grift. 

Private testing companies shakedown education majors for a few hundred bucks after they’ve already stacked up thousands in debt to take a job that faces historic shortages. 

I’ve only been in a classroom since January. Already I am a changed person. I had no idea what I didn’t know about this job. 

It is hard work. It might be the hardest civilian non-first responder or peace officer job there is. 

Sometimes I think I’ve permanently scrambled my egg to think I could do this. 

But I’m getting better everyday. And I think I love even on the days I’m cursing into my pillow at night. 

So, yes, please Iowa lawmakers and Gov. Reynolds, remove one expensive hurdle for me and the thousands of students working hard to become the teachers our state so desperately needs. 

Former journalist Daniel P. Finney writes columns for the Marion County Gazette. Reach him at newsmanone@gmail.com.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.