Dear Hy-Vee: Chariton Deserves Better

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.

22 Comments

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  1. I have lots of relatives in Chariton and visit as often as possible. The market grill is a very good thing for Chariton, and I thoroughly enjoyed it the one time I went there. If HYVEE thinks a Smokey Joe’s coffee thing is needed for Chariton then find another building and locate it there. Leave The Market Grille in the Charitone alone. They are a very welcome and needed addition to the Chariton downtown area.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We loved the uniqueness of this restaurant reminiscent of times past. The service was impeccable and the mints were Devine! This makes me sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amen. My sentiment exactly. I called HyVee customer service number to voice my great disappointment in their choices. I too beleive that a second ice cream and a second coffee house is unfounded. I was told by the man on the other end of the customer service line, they would pass along my concerns…….really?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hy-vee corporate I don’t think cares anything about us here in Chariton. I know they have this great new thing for their employees called Perks, will 3/4 of the stuff offered is of no interest to employees here. One example is the great deal on Sprint Cellphones except they don’t work down here. If corporate wants it they get it. The real working people don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A town often becomes a ghost town because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as the small businesses being forced out of town by the larger one.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Chariton needs so much to bring our little square back to life..please leave the Market Grille alone..I was thinking the other day that when I have family in to visit..what a nice place to take them out to eat..not a sandwich, ice cream shop..I agree..put Smoky Row in one of our many empty buildings on the square..thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Chariton has deteriorated so much since we grew up there. When we come back to visit our mothers, we love Chux and Double Dip and The Porch…..but when we bring company or need something special, we always go to the Market Grille. Very sad to think there will be no place for a steak or nice meal, and the new place will just take business away from existing ones. Another black eye for the community.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I noticed the deterioration too. It’s not the same as when I was younger and lived in town. The restaurant in the Charitone was a sign things might be improving. I can’t say that now

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree with above comments, the Market Grill in the Chairtone, is a very unique dining place, the food is great and a great family dining experience. Hy-Vee please put your Smokey Row into a different location than this historical hotel

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is devastating news for all of Chariton and the surrounding communities. It is the ONLY place in town to go for a good steak or seafood or even sushi. It’s also the only place in town to go for a cocktail or glass of wine with friends (besides the two local bars). I know it’s hard to make a profit in the restaurant business, but every single time I go there, there are many customers and sometimes there is a wait. I made a vow when it opened to eat there or take out from there weekly BECAUSE we wanted to do our part to make it work. Please, Hy-Vee Corporate, reconsider this awful decision.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hy-Vee gave up on Chariton a long time ago when they moved the corporate office to West Des Moines. Yanking the rug out from under this restaurant should come as no surprise to the residence of Chariton. I realize they are under no obligation to keep it going but it seem to me that Hy-Vee doesn’t mind rubbing salt it the wound it made when it moved the offices north

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Just ate there last night and it was packed! Best place to eat in town. Only sit down place that serves a variety of food options. Needs to stay around. Why put that money into it and then take it away from the community? Please keep it as my family deserves options.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Although I moved away from Chariton over 30 years ago, this article hurts my heart. I remember the thriving square and am sad to hear that it is a vanishing site. I will always have fond memories of the Chariton square, and I’ll pray that someday it comes back to life.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My question is was it busy other than just the weekend? A restaurant can’t remain open just for weekend traffic, it needs a steady crowd every day it’s open to survive. Agreed the square is not what it used to be but a lot of people are going to other communities for restaurants, groceries and what not. The climate of loyalty has changed drastically in the last 10 years and it shows in Chariton. A business needs to survive and unpopular decisions need to be made.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been there on other evenings and it seems like it states fairly busy. Busier than another coffee/ice cream shop that competes with local businesses.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Such a disappointment to hear that the market grill is closing. They had the business so something is fishy. The only place in chariton that you could really go out to eat at a nice place. The other places are nice for quick foods but this is the only place for nice gatherings!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sorry to hear that they will be closing as it sounds there is a need. Personally I checked the menu on line back when they opened and being retired it was outside of my budget. Would be nice to have a steak house at prices under $20.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I grew up in Chariton and have watched the community valiantly struggle following Hy- Vee’s decision to move their headquarters To West Des Moines years ago. It makes my heart sad for Hy-Vee to once again pull such a unique destination from Chariton. My family and I stop there at every opportunity and have enjoyed the wonderful food and history on many occasions. My grandmother was a young server there when the Charitone first opened. I see the growth of Hy-Vee and their incredible effort at “market awareness” in the Twin Cities. Why not continue to honor their origin with something substantial instead of just another coffee shop in their birthplace of Chariton, Iowa!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. It is the cornerstone of our community. It brought life back to our small town as it was many many years ago. Makes me sad that HyVee once again chose the big bucks over “town heart”.
    If they think this coffee shop will get you the income you need think again. We already have a lovely coffee shop…and a couple sandwich shops we are loyal to.
    Please reconsider taking this away from our community. We need it. We want it to stay.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I used to live in Chariton & two of my 3 kids still live there. I think replacing the Market Grill with Smokey Row is TOTALLY WRONG! There is no other restaurant in town to get a cocktail & a vast variety of food. Please reconsider!!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This is so so so SAD….I was born and raised in Chariton and it has gone through many different changes. I know how business / monopolies work but that in this case ISN’T WHAT IS NEEDED HERE!! Why would you place all the money into the restoration and then pull the plug?? This is the only great place to get a variety of choices.
    Fast food is all that is left. Why hurt the people of Chariton, where the HEADQUARTERS TO HY-VEE USE TO BE THE PLACE WHERE ITS VARY ORGINS COME FROM…the saying ” don’t bite the hand that feeds you” APPLIES here….the town / people support the store and deli, if they work there they either drive trucks all over midwest or they travel morth to Des Moines for the office jobs that they had 15-20 years ago just outside their doors….and now the COMPANY is taking this GREAT RESTAURANT AWAY?? and in its place putting in a SMOKEY ROW?? WHY WHY WHY
    HY-VEE ONCE AGAIN YOU ARE BITING THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU ALL INVOLVED THOSE THAT EAT THERE. WORK THERE, THE WHOLE COMMUNITY, THE BUSINESSES THAT ALREADY EXIST AND DO THE VERY SERVICES THAT SMOKEY ROW WILL PUT OUT OF BUSINESS…because of this 1 VHOICE you are making WHY DOES CHARITON NEED ANOTHER SANDWICH SHOP OR ICE CREAM BUSINESS? NO WONDER WHY CHARITON IS HEADING TOWARDS THE TOILET…HY-VEE do you want to be the ones to flush it??? You guys support the community too but that is because you have the only place to shop for groceries NO COMPETITION the Shopko went out just a few months back….MY GOODNESS THERE IS A PLACE FOR EVERYONE…KEEP CHARITON BEAUTIFUL PLEASE RECONSIDER……THE PEOPLE THE TOWN THE SMALL BUSINESSES!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. First off Hy-Vee, in my opinion, does so many wonderful things for our community. I don’t even know if people realize how much they give. It is truly a blessing, because they don’t have too give back, but they do.

    I also understand business, and that change is something you can count on in this life, but on a personal level I was so bummed to hear this news. There are always license plates from other communities near and far in the parking lot. After football games, basketball games and other events people don’t leave town without stopping at the Charitone. In the winter on Sundays would love to go finish the second half of a football game, eat supper and then go to a movie, Supporting all things Chariton. When I have company come from anywhere, I take them there for supper because I’m so proud of this historical building in our community.

    It would be incredible if Hy-Vee at this point reversed it’s decision, But if not… I will continue to support the Double dip, The Porch and Smokey Row. To me, That’s what we resilient Charitonites do.

    Liked by 1 person

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