When Tim Flaherty took the helm of Hy-Vee in Fort Dodge in May, it was a dual homecoming. Flaherty not only grew up here, but got his introduction to the grocery world as a part-time checker/stocker at the local Hy-Vee store a quarter century ago, while still in high school.
Flaherty is enthusiastic about becoming Hy-Vee's Fort Dodge store director. He said being selected to head up the local 325-person team has special meaning for him.
"To me, it's an honor to be home," Flaherty said. "It's an honor and a privilege to be the director where you started 25 years ago. That's a special tribute that has been bestowed on me. It's wonderful to be ... in your own hometown. It's exciting to go full circle. ... It's been a fantastic homecoming."
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Tim Flaherty, the new director of the Fort Dodge Hy-Vee Store, displays some of the fresh produce available at the store. Flaherty began his Hy-Vee career as a part-time checker/stocker at the store he is now running.
He noted that his parents - Mick and Alyce Flaherty - and other friends and family members still live in Fort Dodge.
Tim Flaherty said it was especially meaningful to return to Fort Dodge because some of the local store's longtime employees and recent retirees who were here to welcome worked with him as a teenager.
"They helped train me when I was younger," he said. "It's nice coming home and working side-by-side with them."
Meet Tim Flaherty
Flaherty attended St. Edmond Catholic Schools, graduating from St. Edmond High School in 1989. He then studied at Creighton University in Omaha, receiving a bachelor of science in business administration degree in 1993.
While Flaherty's career at Hy-Vee began in 1987 at age 16 when he became a part-time employee at the local store, his introduction to the business world started even earlier. He said he was a news carrier for The Messenger from fifth grade all through high school. After college, Flaherty joined Hy-Vee full time and began management training with the company.
"They asked me where I wanted to train," Flaherty said. "I said 'Fort Dodge would be fine.' ... I worked about 18 months here.
Advancement, however, took him elsewhere. In 1995, he became a second assistant manager ay a Hy-Vee store in Omaha. Two years later, it was on to Mason City to become an assistant store director, a role that lasted six years.
In 2003, Flaherty advanced to store director at a Hy-Vee store in Omaha and two years later returned to Mason City to be a store director there. That was Flaherty's post when he was chosen to lead the Fort Dodge Hy-Vee.
The many hats Flaherty has worn at several Hy-Vee stores have each helped him develop professionally.
"I've learned at every store I worked in - every community that I worked with," he said. "They all help make you a better person."
He added that he particularly has benefited from the mentoring of "a lot of great leaders taking their time to show me."
One of the Flaherty's co-workers during his first stint in Fort Dodge also played a key role in his subsequent personal life - she introduced him to his future wife, Jodi. The Flahertys now have four children. Shannon, 15, will be a sophomore at St. Edmond this fall. Sean, 12, will be in seventh grade. Katie, 7, will enter second grade. Maggie, 4, will be in pre-kindergarten.
Tim Flaherty said he is delighted that his children will be following in his footsteps at St. Edmond, because the school prepared him well for success in college and life.
"It was a great experience," he said, reflecting on his St. Edmond years.
Though he hasn't lived in Fort Dodge since he was a Hy-Vee management trainee here soon after college, Flaherty said he is looking forward to becoming reacquainted with the town where he spent his formative years.
"(I am) excited to learn more about our community and look forward to meeting everyone in the community," he said. "Look forward to seeing everyone in the store."
Flaherty is bullish about the economic prospects of Fort Dodge.
"Opportunities are on the horizon," he said. "It's going in the right direction."
Flaherty has ambitious plans to make Hy-Vee an important part of that bright future.
"I hope we can continue and keep growing on our service," he said. "We'll keep working on improving service."
Asked what sets his company's stores apart from the competition, he has a straightforward reply.
"I think we're a place where you can get one-stop shopping," Flaherty said.
He pointed out that at the local Hy-Vee there is a great deal more in the mix than just groceries.
"We have floral," he said. "We have a pharmacy, a Chinese department, international cheese and delicatessen. We have a vision center. We have a satellite wine and spirits location."
Then too, there is a cafe, a bakery, catering, a healthy foods department and much more. It is even possible to do banking in the store. Citizens Community Credit Union has a branch there.
The huge store has an enormous selection of merchandise. Flaherty estimated that it stocks at least 50,000 different products.
Customer service is also a key part of the Hy-Vee equation for success.
"We do have service with a smile," Flaherty said. "I definitely want to make sure we work hard and let our customers know they are important and we appreciate them."
And, of course, convenience is a huge selling point for Hy-Vee. The store is ready to meet its customers' needs 24 hours a day most days. The only day it is closed completely is Christmas.
After a lifetime spent in the Hy-Vee system, Flaherty said it is clear that this company and industry are a good fit for him professionally.
"I've always found it a fascinating business," he said. "I really enjoy taking care of customers. I enjoy the business."
According to information provided on Hy-Vee's corporate website, the company's annual sales total more than $7.3 billion. It has more than 235 retail stores in eight Midwestern states and ranks among the top 20 supermarket chains in the United States.
The company's mission statement is succinct and to the point: "Making lives easier, healthier, happier."