Grocery Store Marks Progress in Parkersburg

By Mark Geary, Reporter

Jeanie Meyer of Aplington cleans shelves in Brothers Market in Parkersburg on Tuesday, May 12, 2009, in preparation for stocking and the grand opening of the store. Parkersburg has been without a grocery store since last year's tornado, forcing many residents to drive into Waterloo or Cedar Falls to get groceries. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

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By Daren Sukhram

PARKERSBURG - This Memorial day takes on extra meaning for the people of Parkersburg, New Hartford, and Dunkerton who survived an EF-5 tornado.

It was a year ago Monday the tornado hit, forever changing the landscape and the people in the storm's path. The storm killed seven people in Parkersburg and two more in New Hartford.

A few days ago, the Brothers Market grocery store opened in Parkersburg. It might not sound like a big deal, but it's one of the final major pieces of the community to come back after last year's tornado.

Many people consider grocery shopping a chore. In Parkersburg, it's a privilege. "It's just great. You walk into the store and everybody is smiling. They're happy. It's just nice knowing you don't have to go anywhere," said Mavis Wicks of Parkersburg.

Before this place opened, people had to drive 15 or 20 miles to buy fresh fruit, veggies and meat. "It just costs you a lot of gas going back and forth," Parkersburg resident Chad Christie said.

A nearby gas station eventually started to stock eggs and milk, but locals say it was nothing compared to a grocery store. "The prices are the same as Cedar Falls and Waterloo, but you don't have to drive as far anymore. We live a couple blocks away, so it works out good," Christie said.

As other cities struck by natural disasters last year continue to struggle, the return of Parkersburg's grocery store reminds everyone about how far this community has come.

"It's been really great to see the town get one more piece of normalcy back."

It's a simple chore, a return to the routine and a symbol of the city's strength.

The owner of the original grocery store destroyed by the tornado decided not to rebuild. Then, NFL Player and Parkersburg native Jared DeVries decided to help build a new store with the help of his two brothers. They say it was their way to give back to the community that gave them so much.

E-mail Mark Geary at Mark.Geary@kcrg.com or follow him on Twitter.

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