Theo and Bonnie Ramsey purchased a historic local grocery store in Lenox, Iowa on April 1, 2015 and turned it into Ramsey’s Market, an “Iowa-based neighborhood grocery, incorporating the culture and style of rural America into our modern attitude”. Formerly, the store was Cheese’s Food Center, run by the Cheese Family since 1895.
The previous owner of the store had worked with the South Central Iowa Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and recommended them to Theo. Theo connected with former director, Dave McLaren, in September of 2014. After Dave’s retirement, Theo worked with current SBDC Director Brandi Shay.
Theo describes his experience with the SBDC as fantastic. “We always met wherever and whenever. Communication was always great. They helped me with 3 year projections before I purchased the business. Within a short amount of time, they were able to help me with the foundation of the business. I don’t know if we would even be in business without the help of the SBDC.”
Ramsey’s Market is a family business and Theo’s entire livelihood. Theo is always looking to try new and interesting ideas and since Lenox has a large population of Hispanics, Ramsey’s now offers a large selection of Hispanic food in its store. The business also accommodates those wanting more natural and organic items.
Ramsey’s Market currently has 4 full-time employees and 7 part-time. The store’s sales average this year is up five percent over last year. The Ramseys hope someday to add a deli that offers fresh salads and sandwiches.
Theo places weekly ads in the newspaper, uses Facebook, the company’s website, and even partners with Amazon to offer an online store to market his business. By accessing Ramsey’s Market website, customers can use a portal to Amazon to purchase any of their items online. When using the Ramsey’s Market Amazon store, one percent of the proceeds go towards a scholarship for local area students. Essentially, a customer could do all of their shopping online from the Amazon store through the Ramsey’s Market website.
Ramsey’s Market is actively involved in the community, too. It partners with Rotary, the local Chamber of Commerce and other civic and church organizations to help strengthen the community through charitable giving and non-profit fund-raising efforts.