Chariton brings fond childhood memories to me. We frequently passed through Chariton during our travels to my great-grandparents in Plano, Iowa. One time, Grams suggested we stop by Red Haw State Park, and we discovered one of my favorite beaches. Well, a few years ago, I returned to Chariton and discovered “The Charitone”.
William L. Perkins designed The Charitone in the 1920s. It officially opened in November of 1923 with almost 60 rooms and hotel dining. As time does, it marched forward, and left its impression on this historic building. In 2012, Hy-Vee pledged more than $1.5 million to rehabilitate The Charitone.
Chariton is one of Hy-Vee’s largest distribution centers, which provides vital jobs for the small town’s economy. To show their appreciation for Chariton and prove their interest in making Chariton a great place to live or visit – they wanted to make sure history was preserved. There are apartments above, and a Market Grille on the main floor.
This Market Grille is unique from all the others you may have visited. It isn’t attached to a Hy-Vee store. It doesn’t have the same atmosphere. The original tile floor takes you back in time, when you first step in. The staff is top-notch – hosts, servers, cooks, bartenders, and manager included. And, they have a brilliant touch at the end of your meal – Piper’s handmade chocolate-covered mint patties (Piper’s is next door, on the square – you MUST visit!).
Drive around Chariton – businesses are struggling, the square has empty real estate, and there isn’t a lot of traffic driving through Chariton outside of the Hy-Vee semis. Or Google what is in Chariton. Their options for a steak are non-existent. The hard-working family who saved $75 to enjoy a special night out for something other than fast food is limited. And soon, unless they saved an additional $25 for gas money to drive to another town, it will be even more limited.
Folks – Mama and I are 30 minutes from Des Moines’ East Village which is packed full of restaurants to fit whatever mood we are in, we are 15 – 30 minutes from all sorts of Hy-Vee Market Grilles…and we are riding 45 miles to experience Hy-Vee’s unique Grille. I can’t imagine what this unique place means for those who are within walking distance or no further than a proverbial hop, skip, and jump away.
But, as we rode down on Tuesday, we sat next to locals who shared the Grille was going away in August. We were devastated and in disbelief. Hy-Vee announced a partnership with Smokey Row. Hy-Vee is replacing their tremendously gracious nod to Chariton with a shop that serves coffee, ice cream, and a simple menu.
Chariton is already home to the Double Dip, a locally-owned ice cream shop. It is also home to locally-owned coffee house, The Porch. Is Hy-Vee really putting in a business that can only be successful if it takes away business from small businesses owners?
I read Hy-Vee’s article announcing their excitement. It was matched with frustration and disappointment in the online comments. I truly hope you take a moment to share. I hope Hy-Vee takes a moment to reconsider. I hope they hear the voices of their community who they once praised and rewarded for their loyalty and support.