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‘A proud day’; Hy-Vee opens amid crowds, some tears

Austin’s new Hy-Vee store formally opened its doors Tuesday morning, amid crowds of excited customers — and a few tears.

Store Director Dan Goshorn made the decision to have Mark Kanne, manager of general merchandise, unlock the doors for the first time. Kanne is the longest serving employee at the Austin store, having worked there for 42 years.

“It was pretty emotional,” said Goshorn. “And he deserved it.”

An estimated 200 lined up outside the store in preparation for its opening — and to receive a free bag of groceries, promised to the first 300 customers. At 6 a.m., Kanne opened the doors while an entire employee group applauded.

One customer dropped to her knees and inexplicably kissed the floor of the store before she jumped right back up to tour the new building; another man came in with a homemade sign that he had missed Hy-Vee since it closed on Saturday night.

“It’s awesome,” said Jan Hamer of Brownsdale, adding as she filled her car that she loved the food selection.

Rachel Uthke of Austin agreed.

“It’s unbelievable, the amount of items here,” she said.

But if the customers were excited, the store employees were doubly so.

Hy-Vee district vice president Wes Snook said the company could not be prouder of the employees in the Austin Hy-Vee.

“They have worked hard and long on this,” said Snook, as he chatted with customers near the meat department. He said their type of dedication is part of the reason “we believe in Austin; we believe in this market.”

Goshorn agreed, and praised his staff for their commitment to providing the best service to customers.

“It is a proud day,” he said.

Customers streamed through the aisles, taking in the amenities not seen in the previous store. The new 82,000-square foot store, located west of Shopko on 18th Street Northwest, hosts a slate of new offerings: Hibachi Asian Grill, Long Island Deli, Cocina Mexicana, The Market Grille restaurant and bar, Dia Pida Italian Street Food and a revamped traditional deli case, the Hickory House Comfort Foods. Other areas include a Juice & Smoothies island; a bakery with artisan and pan breads, pastries, cakes, bagels and daily fresh-fried doughnuts; a specialty cheese and olive bar; a salad bar; a full meat counter with smoked meats, in-store chefs and a cooking demonstration station. A full wine and spirits area is located on the west side of the store.

Add to that a pharmacy with a drive-up window; an in-store dietitian and wellness department; a large HealthMarket and bulk foods section with fresh produce items, including homegrown and organic; specialty items; floral design and shop; a mother’s room; dry cleaning and postal services; Aisles Online grocery delivery and pickup service; and a convenience store with a Caribou coffee shop and drive-through.

Mayor Tom Stiehm was among those checking out the store on Tuesday morning. He said he was impressed over and over again.

“It’s wonderful; I know it will draw lots of people to Austin,” he said. He told the crowd during an Austin Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting that the opening of the new store is “one of the best things that has happened to Austin in a long time.”

Chamber of Commerce Director Sandy Forstner said the addition of the new store will enhance the community and especially, its retail sector.

Hy-Vee’s commitment to the community, he said, should speak positively to prospective retailers and help them consider Austin as a good location.

“We are very fortunate to have Hy-Vee here; the new store is just fantastic,” he added.

Goshorn thanked the Chamber ambassadors and others for attending, and again, extended his thanks to the Austin community and his employees.

“We are bigger and bolder and better than ever,” he said.