click image to zoom Albion, Iowa, is not unlike hundreds of small communities struggling to find a footing in uncertain economic times.
There’s a scattered collection of old storefront buildings, many of them boarded up and standing as monuments to days gone by. The Casey’s General Store, with its gas pumps and hot coffee, invites locals to gather and catch up on the gossip of the day. And an antique shop on the north end of town catches the eyes of passers-through, enticing them to make illegal U-turns on Main to seek out long-forgotten treasures.
For the people who live here, however, one of the most exciting pieces of news was when Jeff and Christy Hibbs, who farm and ranch just west of town, purchased the bank building a couple of years ago and converted it into a store for selling locally raised food.
“I kid you not,” laughs Christy, “people around here were more excited that we were going to turn the bank sign back on — with its time and temperature — than they were about the opening of the store.”
The store, located a block east of Main Street, is appropriately called “The Market off Main.” Its colorful sign and logo — and the contemporary look of the store’s 1,100-square-foot interior — are in contrast to the building’s otherwise bureaucratic-looking exterior.
The Hibbs initially purchased the building because they needed an office for Jeff’s farming operations and storage for Christy’s “farmers’ market stuff,” Christy says.
Then it hit them: Why not convert the building into a store where they could sell their locally raised beef and also help other markets in the area sell their products as well?
Today, the store features not only Hibbs Farm Beef but products from about 20 vendors, as well — everything from locally produced honey and wine to cheese, milk, pork and chicken.
“All of our meats are locally born and raised and processed at licensed and inspected facilities,” Jeff says. “All of our dairy products are from licensed dairies as well.”
The success of the enterprise — and the quality of Hibbs Farm Beef — is attracting the attention of some heavy-hitter businesses across the state.
Starting last fall, Hibbs began delivering one beef carcass every two weeks to the Isle of Capri Casino in Waterloo, Iowa, where it’s prepared by a chef and enjoyed by customers seeking a great-tasting meal.