Families and food at Argo General Store
It may be true that all roads lead to Argo, Iowa. In this case, Territorial Road in Scott County.
“Conveniently located in the middle of nowhere,” said owner Ken Bowker.
That’s where regulars start arriving for lunch at the Argo General Store. They even made a special sign for WQAD’s visit.
“Everyone’s really nice,” said Chase Leamer, 16, between bites of tater tot casserole. “They treat you like family.”
Argo’s not even a town. Just a handful of people live near the business.
Owner Ken Bowker, 72, holds court.
“You put your truck in storage?” he asked one of the regulars.
Known as the Mayor, he’s been in charge since 1987.
“It isn’t fancy,” Bowker said. “People just feel at home in here. I know I do.”
Snapshots and memories detail its rich history. The third-generation family business opened back in 1907.
“This was the old store,” he said, pointing to an old black and white photo.
Operating for more than a century, only a devastating fire in 1943 slowed it down. Rebuilt back then, it’s continued on for nearly 70 years.
“The favorite thing to do is when they want coffee, they bang their cups on the tables,” said server Brittany Banks.
Like the sign says, “Order what ya want. Eat what ya get.” They serve breakfast and lunch seven days a week.
Sisters Brittany and Breann Banks keep the place together these days. From serving up a signature burger to delivering the daily special, they’re used to the pace.
“It can be a little crazy,” Brittany said. “Sometimes the coffee pots can’t keep up.”
“You’ll run behind real fast if you don’t keep up,” Breann said.
This place might be the closest thing to actually stepping back in time.
“Come in for a ten-minute meal and be here for a half-hour talking to everybody,” said customer Kyle Forgie.
It’s that old-fashioned philosophy that keeps customers coming back for more. Some show up every day of the week.
There’s kitsch and conversation. Check out the vintage beer can collection featuring J.R. Ewing and Mickey Gilley. And you might want to leave with an Argo t-shirt.
But what’s the real secret to its success?
“The grumpy old man that owns the place, Kenny,” said customer Mike Gravert.
“Kenny’s a real nice guy,” added Forgie. “He’d do anything for anybody.”
“He’s not like a normal boss,” Breann said. “Pretty laid back, if you ask me.”
Another lunch hour about over, it’s a simple recipe for success.
“They all just sit around and eat and talk,” Bowker concluded. “That’s what it’s all about here, I think.”
Discovering a lost art at the Argo General Store.
The Argo General Store is open seven days a week from 5:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. It’s about a dozen miles from Davenport. You’ll find it at 23941 Territorial Road in rural LeClaire.
Even though there’s a “For Sale” sign outside, Ken hopes a family member will keep it operating for decades to come.