A changing of the aisle: With Hepler departing for Cedar Falls, Goshorn to begin tenure at Austin Hy-Vee
Published 1:01 pm Sunday, March 20, 2016
As Dan Goshorn walked through Austin’s Hy-Vee last week, he stopped to greet and chat with a few of the Hy-Vee employees he’ll soon manage.
The current manager, Todd Hepler, saw that as a good sign.
Hepler, 47, is leaving Austin to manage the Cedar Falls, Iowa, store, but he’s confident he’s leaving Austin’s Hy-Vee in good hands as the store nears a period of transition.
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“Even this morning as we walk the store, you can just tell: He’s going to do a good job here, which I really appreciate,” Hepler said. “Because not only do I work with Hy-Vee employees, but they’re also my family.”
Goshorn, 47, will take over for Hepler, who has been in Austin for nine years as work is underway to demolish to former Oak Park Mall to build a 60,000- to 90,000-square-foot grocery store, which could open as soon as 2017.
“I’ve got big shoes to fill, but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Goshorn said. “I think with the new store coming, I think it’s going to be great.”
Change before transition
The move comes ahead of a transitional time for the Austin store. The city of Austin closed a deal in November to acquire the former Oak Park Mall for about $3.65 million from The Hormel Foundation, which paved the way for Hy-Vee to build its new store.
Hepler admits many people have asked why he’s leaving with the new store primed for construction. For the most part, Hepler says it’s a family decision, and he feels he fulfilled his role in the process to get it to where it is today.
“I played the role that needed to be played to keep everybody in it and not to give up on this incredible endowment that we’re going to be going on right now,” he said.
The Hepler family decided if it were to transfer, they had only a small window as Hepler wanted to give the new store director time to be the one to lead the way into the new store.
“I wanted him to be more in charge of the new store — the layout and everything that comes with that,” he said.
While demolition work has begun inside the old mall, Hepler said the mall’s walls could start coming down around the week of April 11.
Hepler added that he expects the new store to bolster the retail outlook in northwest Austin.
In his time with Hy-Vee, Goshorn has been on staff when two other Hy-Vees were built or remodeled. He said he’s learned the most important thing is to stay positive.
“It’s going to be a lot of hard work,” Goshorn said. “You’ve got to have a lot of patience. You’ve got to keep a smile. There’s going to be things that probably pop up that are outside of your control, but that means that you just dig in and work that much harder, and you keep your people positive.”
But as the town where most of his nine children graduated from high school, Hepler said he’ll always have ties to Austin.
Hepler moved often growing up, making his roughly nine-year tenure in Austin the longest he’s lived in one community. That made it important to Hepler to leave the store in good hands.
“I wanted the right person to run my store and also to take care of my people,” Hepler said. “But not only that, but also to take care of my community. Because this is my community — I’ve never lived in one town longer than I’ve lived in Austin.”
But he’s confident Goshorn is the right man for the job.
“The customers won’t see anything miss a beat whatsoever, because Dan will do it exactly the way things have been done and continue the progress in our community,” Hepler said.
To Hepler, the transition for Goshorn to take over the Austin store has been smooth because the two have been friends for several years and often sit together at Hy-Vee meetings.
“When the store came open, there was no secrets,” Hepler said. “He called me; I told him exactly what was going on.”
Both are advocates for juvenile diabetes and sit in a group together at Hy-Vee meetings, which once a year leads them to pay $100 to sit with their friends.
“I honestly think that Hy-Vee couldn’t have done a better job of picking somebody that I feel has the same characteristics and has the same autonomy and the same feelings for a community that I do,” Hepler said.
Hepler says move is like going home
Hepler is slated to leave Austin for Cedar Falls, Iowa, on April 4, and Goshorn should start around the same time. To Hepler, the Cedar Falls store was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. The store is important for the company because it’s one of the early stores and a past Hy-Vee president and several company executives have passed through it, he noted.
“Cedar Falls was a store that I’ve always dreamed of running,” Hepler said. “It’s an iconic store in our company. It also gets me a lot closer to home.”
Hepler attended the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls where he earned degrees in small business management and finance, and he met his wife, Kim, at the store.
“For me, it’s really kind of going back home,” Hepler said.
Hepler and Kim have nine children, but only one will be making the move with them.
Hepler said the store is a bigger one, as Cedar Falls is in the Cedar Valley near Waterloo, Iowa, and many nearby communities. The store is almost double the size of Austin’s current store, and the store has recently been remodeled.
Hepler is from Atlantic, which is near Omaha, Nebraska, but he has many friends and family in the Cedar Falls area.
Hepler started his career near in Atlantic in 1984, but he made several stops along with way across Iowa, including in Estherville, Cedar Falls/Waterloo area, Des Moines and Dubuque before getting his first store management position in Iowa Falls in 1999. He became the store director in Austin in 2007.
Goshorn praised Hepler as someone who has charisma and people skills, noting he can connect with both his employees and the public. He also praised him as a highly decorated Hy-Vee director.
Family takes up a lot of time for Hepler, who has three new grandsons along with his nine children. Hepler also enjoys yard work, golfing and is an avid car collector. A few gems in his collection is a remade 1968 Chevy C20 pickup and one of the first Saturn Sky cars ever built.
Hepler and his wife, Kim, plan to build a home in the Cedar Falls area, so Kim will likely stay in Austin a bit longer before they’re ready to fully move down.
‘He’s just one of those guys that just cares’
In announcing his successor, Hepler said he told his employees they’ll love working for Goshorn: “You’re going to love him because of his passion. He’s just one of those guys that just cares.”
“He has a lot of caring in him,” Hepler added, noting that Goshorn shook hands and hugged his new employees last week.
Austin will be a larger community and store for Goshorn. He started with Hy-Vee in 1985 in Ames, Iowa, his hometown, and he worked for the company in high school. He earned a bachelor’s and master’s from Iowa State University in Ames.
Like Hepler, Goshorn has bounced around several Iowa Stores. After working in Ames, he moved to the Boone, Iowa, then onto Omaha, Nebraska, as an assistant before he returned to Ames as at the Hy-Vee drug store manager. Then he returned to Boone as the store manager about two years ago.
Austin was an appealing store for Goshorn as he said it’s been under good leadership for many years.
“Todd’s been a great director here for a long time, and the involvement that he has in the community and the store in the community, and just a lot of the values that he has and the store has are just very close to my heart and things that I would like to continue to do,” Goshorn said.
Goshorn noted Hepler will be a good resource moving forward and joked he may need Cedar Falls on speed dial for a while.
Goshorn spends much of his free time with his wife, Carrie, and their daughter, Kinley, 6. They enjoy going on bike rides, walks and doing other family activities.
“She just means the world to me,” he said of his daughter.
Carrie, who works as a teacher, and Kinley will finish the school year in Boone before joining Goshorn in Austin this summer.
Goshorn also plays golf when time allows, but he joked he isn’t as good as he’d like.
New smile, same aisle
During Hepler’s tenure, the Austin Hy-Vee has been involved with many community programs like Feed A Family, and Goshorn said that will continue when he takes over. He’s also been involved with the chamber and other community activities in the past.
“I think giving back to the community and supporting the community that supports us is one of the number one things that we do,” Goshorn said.
Hepler echoed that sentiment, noting Hy-Vee’s community involvement is important. He thanked the community for its support during his nine years in Austin, and he thanked Austin Public Schools for the education his children received in town.
“I really want to thank the community for supporting Hy-Vee, and I want them to continue support a store that really does care about the community,” Hepler said. “This store gives and gives and gives and we see that because we see the number of customers that shop our store.”