Biz Buzz Tuesday: Grocery store fills small-town void; molding companies merge; yard-sign companies launch in Dubuque

Jill Keck is the owner of Card Your Yard Dubuque. PHOTO CREDIT: NICKI KOHL

Biz Buzz shares business tidbits from around the tri-states each Tuesday. This week, we highlight developments in Dubuque, Hanover, Ill., and Cuba City, Wis.

A new grocery store in Hanover aims to fulfill a need that often goes unmet in smaller communities.

Great River Market opened its doors Saturday at 100 Jefferson St. Owner Lance Larsen said the grocery store is the only one of its kind in Hanover, where residents often must leave town to do their grocery shopping.

Larsen moved to Hanover about one and a half years ago and launched Sulcanna Co., an industrial hemp company. As he settled into the community and spoke with its residents, he learned what the small village offered and what it lacked.

“The thing I found that was missing here the most was access to good, affordable food,” he said.

Larsen is no stranger to the food business.

He used to be in charge of community farmers markets back when he lived on the East Coast. And over the years, he has studied the intricacies of the food-distribution system.

Given this knowledge, he is well aware that running a small grocery store can be an uphill battle.

“Local grocery stores have an extraordinarily difficult time surviving,” he said. “There is a real reason that local communities don’t have grocery stores, and a big part of it is that the food-distribution system is predominantly focused on big-box stores.”

Larsen hopes to beat the odds by sourcing food outside of the traditional distribution system.

He said Great River Market is partnering with a variety of local entities, including an orchard, a mushroom vendor and a meat producer. The store also is working with online farmers market Jo Daviess Local Foods and Jo Daviess Transit, the latter of which obtained stimulus funds that will support free food delivery throughout the whole county.

Larsen emphasized that he is working closely with Debbie Boden, who will serve as the manager at Great River Market.

In addition to providing much-needed products, Larsen is hoping that Great River Market will breathe new life into an old, underutilized building, which is located just across the street from Sulcanna Co.

Great River Market is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. It can be reached at 815-575-9354.

COMPANIES JOIN FORCES

A pair of companies with a total of four southwest Wisconsin locations have been combined into a new entity.

A.Y. McDonald recently announced it had combined S.K. Plastic Molding and Non-Metallic Components to create a new company known as McDonald Plastic Molding.

S.K. Plastic Molding has locations in Darlington and Monroe. It was founded in 1985 and acquired by A.Y. McDonald in 2004.

Founded in 1992, Non-Metallic Components has locations in Cuba City and Poynette, Wis. A.Y. McDonald acquired it in 2018.

All four locations will proceed with “business as usual,” according to a press release. However, the company names and logos will be transitioned to reflect the McDonald Plastic Molding moniker.

Justin Mills, director of marketing for A.Y. McDonald Manufacturing Co., confirmed that the two companies were combined on Jan. 1 and the headquarters of the new entity, McDonald Plastic Molding, is located in Cuba City.

He said the move would not affect the size of the workforce but would have a positive impact on customers.

“We are bringing the strengths of the two companies together to serve more customers and serve our current customers even better,” said Mills.

YARD SIGNS ADD FLAIR

Two new Dubuque businesses are adding some extra flair to special occasions in the tri-state area.

Dubuque resident Jill Keck launched Card Your Yard Dubuque in November. In the months since, the company’s sizable, weather-resistant yard signs have graced local residents’ front lawns for a wide range of celebrations.

Keck emphasized that she can personalize and customize signs to the customer’s desire.

“We’ve done signs for anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, retirements, new babies. … Our signs are for anything and everyone,” she said. “Our goal is to create a little extra excitement around those events.”

Keck’s operation is one of at least two similar businesses operating in the Dubuque area. Another operation, dubbed Card My Yard, launched in mid-January and started accepting online bookings last week.

The businesses serve an elevated purpose given the nature of the past year, when COVID-19 has compelled people to cancel the types of in-person gatherings that normally mark significant events.

This has given rise to new concepts such as drive-by birthday parties, in which guests will join a celebration by honking or waving from the safety of their vehicle. Keck said her business’s signs have been a perfect complement to these types of events.

For Keck, Card Your Yard is about more than turning a profit.

At the request of area residents, Keck has placed “health care heroes” signs outside of medical facilities free of charge. She hopes the signs send an uplifting message to a segment of the population that’s been under immense pressure over the course of the past 11 months.

Keck also plans to supply 10 “Bee Kind” signs around the community on Feb. 17 to mark Random Acts of Kindness Day. The signs will be placed in the yards of random residents, who then have the chance to pass along the kindness by placing them elsewhere.

“Anything that helps with the community makes me feel good,” she said. “Bringing joy is my number one goal.”

Keck said Card Your Yard serves residents within a 15-mile radius of Dubuque.

It can be reached at 563-580-4075. It also can be followed at Facebook.com/CardYourYardDubuque.

Local resident Peggy Neumann started a similar operation nearly one month ago. Her local operation is part of the national Card My Yard franchise.

After working in the corporate world for 21 years, Neumann came to the realization that she wanted to try something new. She learned about Card My Yard by reading a blog post on Instagram.

“I fell in love with the company and the concept and decided this was something I wanted to be a part of,” she said.

Neumann’s franchise serves Dubuque, Peosta, Sherrill and Durango, Iowa, as well as East Dubuque, Ill., and Hazel Green, Wis. She also can serve other areas for a higher fee.

Card My Yard can be reached by emailing dubuque@cardmyyard.com or by visiting cardmyyard.com.

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