After nearly 50 years of being referred to as a “food desert,” downtown Waterloo has opened its first full-service grocery store thanks to developer Rodney Anderson and Lance Dunn. Over 100 individuals showed their support for them at the grand opening of All-In Grocers in the Walnut neighborhood of Waterloo, which came about after nearly seven years of waiting.
Grandma’s Hands Restaurant, the Miss Willie Mae Wright Community Center, laundry, an after-school program satellite office, and reentry services are among the many features of the 28,000-square-foot development, according to The Courier.
It will also house space for Road Home, a nonprofit sponsored by the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact that will provide reentry services to the formerly incarcerated.
The founders referred to it as an economic and community hub. The original proposals called for the project to employ 60 to 80 people and have an annual payroll of $8 million to $10 million.
“All-In Grocers providing jobs, providing job training, have a community center, and make taking us from being a food desert, to a place where you can actually find fresh produce and vegetables, to me, is a great inspiration to this entire community, and only part of our efforts to move our community forward,” Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart said, according to KCRG.
The Courier reported that in 2017, Anderson presented the initial All-In Grocers plan to the City Council. Dunn mentioned that it took multiple setbacks for the $10.2 million investment to become a reality. Funding was withheld by investors, the pandemic halted development, and delays were brought on by supply chain problems and inflation.
The proposal, which had strong council backing, attracted incentives from the city worth close to $2 million for the developers. Though it was originally scheduled to open in the fall of 2018, the frequent delays distressed some council members.
Mayor Hart shared his relief and excitement for the completion of the project. “I just want to say any time our city has had reports about how we’re not successful, what we’re not doing right … I thank God for Rodney Anderson, because he could easily take their money and their resources and hand it out somewhere else. But they decided to say … ‘we’re not going to allow the report to dictate how good and how great that community is right now,’” he remarked, according to The Courier.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Downtown Waterloo as a food desert, an area with limited access to wholesome food. According to Anderson, the new business intends to address that issue by giving locals jobs and excellent cuisine at a reasonable cost. “Some help is jobs, looking at things as better in the community and… taking the blight down. Formerly incarcerated coming into work, it knocks all of them down,” he expressed.
Following the festivities, Dunn stated that the All-In crew is determined to assist in the development of a thriving community and to invest more in the surrounding areas.
“I’m definitely invested in the community. This is where I’m from—born and raised here. This is my community,” Dunn said. “But not only do I want to invest in the east side of town, I want to invest in the Cedar Valley because we think this store not only provides an opportunity or an option for this side of town, but we think it provides other options for the entire Cedar Valley to come in and participate in and experience. So we have a lot to offer for the entire city.”