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Iowa History Daily: February 23 - First Fareway Fire

Iowa History Daily: On February 23, 1964, a massive fire swept through the original Fareway store and warehouse in Boone. Cold temperatures challenged fire fighters as the blaze caused more than $1 million in damages to the flagship store of the popular Iowa grocery chain.

The first Fareway Store opened for business at 624 Story Street in Boone, Iowa, on May 12, 1938. Paul Beckwith, as well as co-founder Fred Vitt, worked for the large national chain Safeway. Beckwith decided to start his own chain after noticing a gradual shift in how employees and customers were being treated.

Vitt, serving as the manager of the Boone store and as Vice President, oversaw day-to-day operations as the store proved a quick success. The location in Ames opened soon after Boone, followed by expansion to Webster City, Fort Dodge, Estherville, Carroll, and Oelwein. Fareway's concept of a self-service grocery store, revolutionary at the time, allowed shoppers to pick out their own groceries rather than submitting a list to someone who would package everything for the customer.

When the fire broke out, Fareway employee Bill Curran raced into the building to save as many of the store’s records as possible. Both shifts of the Boone Fire Department, as well as volunteers, arrived to fight the blaze with the help of other area departments. Four firefighters ended up in the hospital with smoke inhalation, but eventually recovered. The community rallied in the aftermath, and Fareway President Fred Vitt pledged the story would rebuild in newspaper stories the next day. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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