There are many types of cooperatives in Iowa. It's pretty common to find co-ops in the agricultural (grain elevators), utilities (telephone and rural electric), financial services (credit unions), and even the health care industries. Cooperatives are entities that are owned and controlled by the members or shareholders.
But in Pomeroy, Iowa, a town of a little more than 600 residents in Calhoun County, I found an entirely different type of cooperative.
I found The CO-OP Bar and Grill which opened in 2016.
Seventy-Five (75) $1000 dollar shares were sold to 69 different owners. Many of the owners chipped in their own time to help get the place ready to open to the public. The shareholders elected a board of directors whom then hired a manager and other staff. Less than 3 years in, they also have a supportive community behind it.
Pomeroy is on Highway 4 and for years, before the completion of four-lane Highway 20, I used to travel through the town regularly on my way to and from my parents farm in O'Brien County. There's an old-style Casey's General Store there and I've filled up more than a few tanks of gas over years there.
Next to the Casey's is a long tan building that has housed a number of different businesses over the years. It had been vacant for awhile but previously it was home to an independent grocery store, a laundromat, and a bait store, among many others. Now, it's the home of The CO-OP Bar and Grill. On a recent Saturday afternoon, I popped in before the evening rush and met a couple of the owners, the manager, one of the bartenders, and some other patrons who were coming in out of the cold.
One of the largest parts of the building is the bar area.
There's seating around the bar, but also a number of different tables, too. There's a pool table and a dart board, among other amenities.
The tables can be moved to create added space - perhaps for dancing?
A local band was planning to perform and set up in the corner later that evening. However, there is a modern music player on the wall, too.
There are a couple of televisions, but they also have a large projection screen. It would be a popular place to go and watch Iowa and Iowa State games or maybe even the upcoming NCAA tournament. They are planning to host a Super Bowl party there on Sunday.
The bar does not offer any beers on tap. Everything is either bottled or canned. However, they do offer a wide selection of liquor and mixed drinks in addition to non-alcoholic beverages.
I spotted a popcorn machine.
From a door, you could look outside to the patio where an old grain bin has been turned into an outside bar. On this cold and snowy January day, it was pretty sad and desolate. However, I was informed that's it typically a pretty fun and happenin' hangout during warmer months. Something to look forward to.
Next to the bar area is a smaller dining room. It also houses the host stand, the salad bar (everything is made from scratch!), and a counter connected to the kitchen.
A set of sliding barn doors leads into a larger dining room that can also be utilized for private events. It got heavy use during the Christmas Party season.
They offer a nice menu of food options but also have regular specials.
There are also other fun promotions throughout the week.
This is a great place and I am so glad to see that it's picking up steam in Pomeroy. A group of citizens got together, pooled their money, time, and talent and made this happen. They recognized how important it is for a small town to have a great place to gather - a place that can be the social nucleus of the town. Honestly, there are other towns in Iowa who should look very seriously at copying this model.
I plan to get back again soon to actually try some of their food.
In the meantime, give them a like and a follow on Facebook because they are proving that sometimes it really does take a village to raise a bar.
While in Pomeroy, I decided to do a bit more exploring. I'm not sure I've ever wandered off Highway 4 to see the rest of the town and I found a lot to like. One of the biggest and prettiest (at least from the outside) Lutheran churches I've seen in Iowa is right on Highway 4.
They even have a tree stump that has been carved into a statue of Jesus.
I spotted another church as well.
There's a school building in town. The Pomeroy-Palmer district has merged into the Pocahontas Area Community (PAC) district.
However, there is still a sign along the highway that demonstrates their pride for the former district.
Agriculture is a huge part of the area economy and they have a branch of the NEW grain cooperative here.
There's also an implement dealership.
I found a building that appears to house a seed sales and also possibly an electrician business.
I also found what appears to be a service and repair garage.
The downtown area has a number of different buildings that are in various stages of use and upkeep.
The building below has a significant hole in the roof but I hope something can be done with it. It looks to be a very neat building.
Naturally, there's a post office and a bank, too.
I found a park with both a ball field, playground equipment, shelter house, and other amenities.
There's a water tower, a veteran's memorial, and some kind of trellis-like element with benches.
I found a nice variety of housing types. From single family homes to apartments and even senior living.
There is a cemetery on the north edge of town.
The Pomeroy area, like a lot of areas of Iowa, have seen many wind turbines erected in recent years. For better or for worse (almost everyone has an opinion on this), they are changing the landscape of Iowa.
I enjoyed my visit to Pomeroy and hope to get back again soon - perhaps when it isn't so cold and snowy.
I wish continued success to The CO-OP and hope that they can be a model for other towns to consider. It's a great example of the ingenuity and resilience of rural Iowa.