Keith Voss is the new manager at Fareway. ANDREW McGINN | JEFFERSON HERALD

Voss takes over store


Keith Voss is such a gifted grocer that he recently managed to unload every last roll of toilet paper at his store.

Well, maybe you heard there were extenuating circumstances.

“We’ve been a little busy,” said Voss, 42, who took over as manager at the Jefferson Fareway just in time for a global pandemic.

“It’s been a madhouse,” he added.

A native of Belle Plaine, Voss is the new face of Fareway in Jefferson — the store’s first change of managers in 25 years following the retirement last month of Doug Monaghan.

The move marks Voss’ 11th with Boone-based Fareway Stores — “Which is a little extraordinary,” he said — but it will be his last, meaning that by the time COVID-39 hits, he’ll have sold toilet paper to two generations of panicked shoppers.

Throughout his 24-year career, which began with what he assumed would be a “short-term” job stocking shelves in high school at the Toledo Fareway, Voss said he’s taken a little something from each store. He most recently managed the store in Centerville for seven years.

In Jefferson, Voss found a store so well-managed that he decided it best to leave things be.

“Doug ran an awesome store,” Voss said. “I didn’t want to screw anything up.”

Recognizing that the store’s employees had a groove, he expressly told himself, “Don’t change a thing. No matter what you see.”

“In Centerville,” he recalled, “I maybe didn’t have that wisdom.”

“Looking back,” he added, “it should have been a disaster.”

Disaster nevertheless found its way to the Jefferson Fareway this past weekend, but it wasn’t of Voss’ making. People hoping to ride out the threat of COVID-19 descended on stores everywhere, snapping up cleaning products and toilet paper.

The public health emergency led Fareway Stores on Wednesday to implement new hours at its more than 120 stores in the Midwest.

Until further notice, stores will be open to the general public from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, giving staff time for additional cleaning and time to restock inventory.

From 8 to 9 a.m., stores will be open only to customers at higher risk of the novel coronavirus — those 65 and older, expecting mothers and those with underlying medical conditions.

Voss’ family — wife Nicole, 18-year-old son Cameron and 13-year-old daughter Sadie — will most likely join him in Jefferson at the end of the school year.

Sadie will be a freshman in the fall at the new Greene County High School under construction.

With competition increasing from online retailers, Voss said one thing still separates the Fareways of the world from the Amazons.

“It’s all about the experience,” he explained. “You’ve got to provide a shopping experience. They can’t provide that experience.”

And it all begins with the manager.

All problems, he said, get checked at the door.

“You have to be happy and available all the time,” Voss said.

Especially when the last package of toilet paper comes down to two people.

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