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Dubuque’s Eagle Country Market preserves legacy by serving neighborhood

DUBUQUE, Iowa -

An independent grocery store in Dubuque is preserving the tradition of Eagle Food Centers by picking up where the defunct Milan-based chain left off in 2003.

Stop at 1800 Elm Street in Dubuque, and it's like finding a long-lost friend.  It's been there for more than a half-century.

"Wow," said David Shaw.  "It's like walking into a blast from the past."

It's a shopping trip down memory lane at Eagle Country Market.  While the company once tallied more than 100 stores during its heyday in the 1980's, Nebraska-based Downtown Eagle Corporation was able to buy the rights to use the name for the Dubuque store after the chain folded 15 years ago.

Shaw, who serves as the store's office manager, returned to his roots on Wednesday, April 4.  He started bagging groceries as a 19-year-old Loras College student and never left.

"You always had this core group of customers everybody got to know, like and shop," he recalled.

But this store is the last hurrah for Eagle Country Market.  Familiar signage calls back to its Quad City roots.  This is the final independently-owned store to remain open.

Bakery Manager Kathy Decker started with Eagle Country Market in 1990 and remained after it went bankrupt.

"I chose to stay, so it was a good choice," she said.

Out of some 50 store employees, she's one of about a half-dozen original Eagle staffers.

"It's just nice that we kept that name," she said.

Past strength helps it to compete these days.  The meat department continues to offer fresh cuts and features customer service.

"You don't have stores like this any more," said shopper Tanya Dickens.  "Everything is convenient."

After decades on Elm Street, the store is important to an underserved neighborhood.  It's clear that it's more than a place to shop.

"This is a legacy, still, to a company that was in business for a hundred years," Shaw concluded.

And these days, the last Eagle Country Market still standing.