Slim’s Country Market has been an iconic business along U.S. Highway 69 near Story City for decades. The fruit and vegetable store got its start in 1943 and draws people from across the state for its fresh produce, flowers and Iowa-made products.
This season, Slim’s opened under new ownership as Kent and Jessica Allen of Ames took over the shop.
Kent Allen has a long history of working with produce at Hy-Vee for 25 years — 20 years as the department manager. The Allens bought Slim’s from another former Hy-Vee produce expert, Kurt Johnson, who owned the market for about a decade.
“Kurt did the same thing at Hy-Vee, and he trained me to do that job. Then after he left that job at West Ames Hy-Vee, I took over as manager,” Kent Allen said. “So we’ve known each other for about 25 years. Then last fall, he said, ‘Hey, it’s your turn to own Slim’s.’”
So Johnson handed the baton to Allen.
Jessica Allen is a guidance counselor for the North Polk school district and looks forward to spending more time at Slim’s during summer break, she said.
“We’ve always love Slim’s, and when Kurt was thinking about retiring and offered to sell to us, it was a big decision but we decided to jump on it,” Jessica said.
She said it’s important to them to continue the “cool history of this place.”
“We want it to retain that feeling of being a small-town place where people love to come — a place where you can just stop and talk to people,” Jessica Allen said. “You get to know customers — local people and those who are just traveling through.”
“I really enjoy talking with people who stop in,” she said. “I feel like we live in a world where nobody’s connected anymore. And this is a place where you have an opportunity to do that, to slow down and chat. The micro-connections you make with people throughout the day are important. You talk about the weather; you talk about the flowers. That’s what we’re designed to do.”
Supporting other local businesses and offering Iowa-made products is also a priority for the Allens as they continue the traditions of Slim’s.
Slim’s large variety of local items includes Knotwater Barbecue Co. products created by a local man, Jimmy Beem.
“I’m a fan of regional barbecue. Kansas City has their style. North Carolina has two or three different styles to them. Texas has a style,” Beem told the Ames Tribune in May 2021. “I tried to combine all of those different flavors into one bottle” — his Knotwater’s original.
Other Iowa products include leaf lettuces, butterhead lettuce and basil plants from Beaver Creek Produce of Berkley. Big Sky Bread’s products are a favorite with customers. Rhinehart’s Family Farms of Boone has fresh produce like asparagus and rhubarb.
From Jewell, Sweet Treats ice cream is available by the pint. Pure and natural honey from Iowa-based Moenck Honey Farm has small and large jars available. Dirty Kids Soap Co. products from Jewell are soaps, shower bombs and insect repellant for kids and are for sale in Slim’s “knickknacks” room.
One of Slim’s Country Market’s biggest weeks is when the Missouri peaches arrive each summer — about the second week of July. Slim’s is taking orders now and will also have peaches for sale from the market.
“That’s a big item,” Jessica Allen said. “People are ordering them by the case, and when the peaches get here, we will personally call them and let them know they’re here. We haven’t experienced that quite yet, but it seems like it will be an exciting time.”
Staff members remain at Slim’s under the new ownership, so loyal customers will see familiar faces, like those of Janet Mitchell and Britt Jones. They’ll also see a new part-time employee, Wrigley Propp, who’s a student at Roland-Story High School. The Allens’ son, Arrow, will also likely become a familiar face at his family’s business.
Slim’s Country Market is located at 11563 U.S. Highway 69, Story City. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. You can follow the business on Facebook @SlimsCountryMarket.
This article originally appeared on Ames Tribune: Slim’s Country Market near Story City is an Iowa icon with new owners