WESTPHALIA — Joe’s Market is a family-owned and operated staple in Westphalia, and for the last 20 years, Duane and Darlene Fennewald have done their best to provide the …
WESTPHALIA — Joe’s Market is a family-owned and operated staple in Westphalia, and for the last 20 years, Duane and Darlene Fennewald have done their best to provide the best service to their customers while being an integral part of the community.
“We have great community support, and we give that back,” Duane said. “We’ve always had local support, but we also have folks coming in from all over the place.”
Darlene added that many customers from Vienna come to Joe’s Market because they can’t get Central Dairy products. Others come from Jefferson City, Taos, Freeburg, and other Central Missouri towns because of the service.
“We have great vendors and offer a reasonable price for our goods,” she added. “We’re not as big as some stores who buy everything in bulk, but our prices are competitive for an independent store.”
The Fennewalds love to offer locally grown products in the store. The pork that Joe’s Market sells is raised on the Fennewald family farm and locally processed and inspected. They also sell wine from Westphalia Vineyards. This season, Joe’s Market started buying plants and flowers from Kaitlyn Borgmeyer at Nature’s Keepers Flowers & Garden Nursery in Loose Creek.
Joe’s Market is known for its deli, offering fresh sandwiches and slice-to-order meats and cheeses by customer request. The store offers meat and cheese trays and fruit and vegetable trays made to order.
The store offers Hunt’s Brother’s Pizzas throughout the week and recently began offering a QCR code that allows customers to link to an online order system.
“We’re very excited to make this available to our customers,” Darlene said. “People can order online, and we’ll get their pizza ready. It’s a very easy process.”
Twice a week, Joe’s Market serves a hot lunch special; biscuits and gravy and breakfast sandwiches are served on weekends.
When COVID hit, and restrictions were put in place across the nation, Joe’s Market struggled like everyone else to fill the shelves. In 2020, the Fennewalds were concerned about maintaining a level of service, but Darlene said most people understood the situation.
“Most people have been good about shortages,” she said at the time. “They understand we’re doing everything we can to keep the shelves stocked.”
That year, the Fennewalds added a second delivery each week, with deliveries on Tuesday and Friday. “The second truck helps with the freshness of our products,” Darlene said.
Duane noted that some shipping issues remain as the store’s supplier, Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG), has had difficulty finding enough employees to load trucks.
“We’ve had some crazy situations,” he added.
For example, the Monday following the Super Bowl was especially tough because there weren’t enough people to fill orders due for delivery to Joe’s Market on Tuesday. Another time, during the week of Thanksgiving, the store received no frozen goods.
The Fennewalds agree that AWG in Springfield has provided relatively good service, and though they had the opportunity to switch to a Kansas City delivery hub, it wasn’t a good fit.
“We have a good relationship with our vendors, but there are things we can’t get,” Darlene said.
In that case, she and the owners of Linn Thriftway help each other.
“This is Osage County,” Duane said. “We have a great relationship with Thriftway.”
Duane and Darlene also help smaller stores in the area. “We have been ordering for Schaperkoetter Store in Mt. Sterling for several years, so we have to balance what we’re able to get between them and what our customers need,” she said, noting that some of what she orders is split with Jerry’s Stop & Go as Mike Nolting owns both operations.
Darlene also orders for the SQRL Convenience Store in St. Elizabeth, previously owned by the Wildes.
“We do our best to keep it fair so everyone can get what they need because we’re still somewhat limited on allocation,” she added.
Duane and Darlene’s daughter, Jennifer, married Andy Brendel, and they have four children, Addilynn, MacKenzie, Ella and Brooklyn. Jennifer works full-time at the store and helps manage the business, including the ordering process.
“She does a great job,” Darlene said.
There have been other challenges in the last 20 years. “We had a couple of lean years in the beginning,” Duane noted. “We didn’t have enough part-time help, but it’s a lot more competitive now, with minimum wage higher. We have a lot of great employees who are willing to help with whatever we need.”
Joe’s Market employs 20-25 people, most working part-time. Some are retired, some work full-time jobs elsewhere, and some are college and high school students who work around their class schedules and school breaks.
Additionally, other family members and friends help when needed.
Chris and his wife Amber have three children, Audra, Carter, and Allie. Chris helps Duane on the family farm full-time but also finds time to run errands and deliver groceries.
The Fennewalds’ youngest daughter, Nicole, is married to Jacob Linhardt and works full-time at a financial institution and part-time at the grocery store, often working evenings and weekends. Darlene’s sister, Shirley Morfeld, also works at the store, and Duane’s sisters, Karen Gentges and Terri Muenks, and brother, Brian Fennewald, help with whatever needs to be done.
Sadly, Duane and Darlene’s son, Aaron, recently passed away. He helped with any electrical needs and helped at the store. His wife Laura is willing to assist the store however she can. Aaron and Laura have two daughters, Emerald and Georgia.
Duane and Darlene rely on Remote Computer Services in Westphalia to assist them with their computer and printer needs.
Since purchasing the store in April 2003 from the Hilkemeyer family, the Fennewalds have made improvements. The first addition was in 2009 when they added a 30-foot storage area, a larger loading dock, and a larger walk-in freezer. In 2015, they added a 30-foot by 100-foot area that included a kitchen, beer cave, additional produce cooler, and another freezer. In 2020, the Fennewald family improved the entrance into the parking lot by widening it and replacing the graveled driveway with concrete.
Duane noted the driveway improvement was made possible through federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, and state officials were very accommodating.
“The state was great to work with,” Duane said. “I wanted to make sure it was wide enough, and they didn’t have any issues with that.”
Moving forward, the Fennewalds said there are no immediate plans for further expansion.
One of the positives of the pandemic was the ability to share funds with employees. “We gave everyone a bonus,” Duane said. “They were a little surprised by that, but we felt it was an opportunity to give back to them. Without great employees, no business will be successful.”
For more information on daily specials, call 573-455-2307 or visit their Facebook page.
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