10-year anniversary of the Rushford flood

Saturday, August 18, started as a typical weekend day in Rushford, but it wouldn’t end like a typical day. In fact, it’s a day that lives on in infamy and will for a long time to come. The Rushford, Minnesota, 2007 flood had begun.

Rain began to fall that evening. It started out as a torrential downpour and it just never let up. It wouldn’t let up for approximately 24 hours. By the early hours of Sunday morning, Rushford had filled up with water and authorities were ordering residents to evacuate. 17 inches of rainfall in a short space of time triggered a flood that saw over five feet of water filling up the Rushford area. The road to recovery would be a long and hard one.

Rushford flood 2007

17 inches of rain in a 24-hour period left behind a once-a-generation flood in Rushford, Minnesota. August of this year marked the ten-year anniversary of the Rushford flood of 2007. (Photo courtesy of Fillmore County Emergency Management)

August marked the ten-year anniversary of the flood. While the recovery stories were incredibly challenging, they were also heartwarming as the community rallied together. Ten different people would give ten different answers to the question, “Can you believe it’s been ten years since the flood?” Looking back, all would agree it was a difficult time.

“It almost seems like it’s been longer than that,” said Pam Brand, owner of Pam’s Corner in Rushford. “Sometimes it feels like it hasn’t been that long, but then I look at everything the community’s been through since then and it feels even longer than that.”

Jim Hoiness, co-owner of Rushford Foods, said it feels like ten years have gone by very quickly, calling it ‘amazing.’ It’s especially amazing when he looks back at where the community came from to where it is today. “We’ve been very blessed,” he said.

Saturday, August 18th, was just another weekend day to the Brands, who’d made plans that day for a grill out with friends, but the torrential rains made that impossible. They didn’t hear about the flooding in Rushford until the next morning, partly because they live ten miles outside of town. A phone call from one of their employees was the first clue they had.

“The employee that opened up on Sunday morning called me and said, ‘Rushford is flooding,’” she said. “We thought that meant the streets might be full of water, so we said we’d be there soon. The employee called back and said, ‘you really need to come now,’ telling us that Rushford was flooding and there was water everywhere.”

Coming in from the south side of Rushford, the Brands made it to the bridge before they were stopped by water. A lot of water. They needed to get to the store, so they took off in their car, which almost made it to the store before stalling. They would wade in water the rest of the way to the store.

The Hoiness family was at a family reunion when it started raining. Even when Jim got home, it was still raining, so he decided to head down to Rushford Foods and take a look at the building. When he got to the store, the loading dock was completely full of water. That water was about one foot from getting into the main store. At that point, Jim said there was nothing he could do about it and went home to hunker down. He wouldn’t see the extent of the damage until the next morning.

The Brands were also seeing water getting closer to their business. The family began moving items in their store to the second floor, getting help from customers who happened to be in the store at the time and were virtually trapped there. They also made what would turn out to be a good decision to shut down all the electrical equipment, a decision that would help them get back on their feet a little quicker than they would have. However, they were still left with a mess.

“A muddy, muddy mess,” Brand said. “It took an awful lot of work to clean up a mess like that but we have an awful lot of good people in this community and the surrounding areas. Folks came from all over to help everybody clean up. It was amazing. I never dreamed that anything like that could happen.”

Jim Hoiness faced a similarly monumental task to get the Rushford Foods building cleaned up. He used the word ‘miracle’ to describe the process as 400 volunteers came to his store to help with cleanup.

Rushford MN Flood 2007

When flood waters recede, they don’t leave behind a suddenly washed-clean environment. That’s when the real cleanup work begins and it’s not pretty at all, as Rushford, MN, found out in 2007. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

“I don’t believe we ever asked anyone to come and help,” Hoiness said. “They just showed up. It was the nastiest job you could ever have, to try and clean up through that muck and mud. It’s a tedious job.”

Hoiness said several of the volunteers were community residents, but there were a lot of people that came in from out of town. In fact, a group of confirmation students from an area Catholic church/school called Hoiness to ask if they could come down and help.

“I talked to the teacher when they first came over,” Hoiness remembered, “and she said the students were a little reluctant to come over, at first. The students worked in the Mill Street Mall (which Hoiness also owns) and helped clean it up. After that, the teacher called back and said the students wanted to return over a couple of Saturdays and finish the job.”

Hoiness said that’s what sticks in his mind the most when he remembers the flood. It’s the people that came to help. It’s not fun to clean up something like that. It’s smelly and dirty. Without that volunteer help, it’s hard to even get a start on a job like that.

“It would be virtually impossible to pay someone for a job that big,” he added. “It would be incredibly expensive.”

Brand said it took a few months before she felt Pam’s Corner was fully back on its feet again. Hoiness said Rushford Foods took a lot of work to get going again as well. Hoiness said they had to remove several feet of interior and exterior walls from the ground up because of water damage. As they got back on their feet, Pam said it was heartwarming to see everyone working together to get Rushford moving again.

“You could see everyone helping each other,” she remembered. “We saw a lot of former community members that had moved away and were coming back to help with cleanup, including former residents that we hadn’t seen in years. Everyone really stuck together to help each other get back on their feet again. It was really quite amazing.”

Hoiness said it was ‘miraculous’ that Rushford Foods could be back in business in only 71 days. They couldn’t have done it without all the help that showed up. He feels Rushford has come a long way since the epic flood in 2007.

“I think so,” he said. “I think things look very good. A lot of homes and businesses were redone. We’re very fortunate.”

Brand said the year after the flood saw Rushford beginning to take shape again, saying everything looked stronger and new. She said it looked like Rushford had done the right things to get going in the right direction again. Does she still believe that ten years later?

“I believe it is, yes,” she said firmly.

Here’s a YouTube video of the flood and some of the damage that it left behind:

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time to “Fetch” the groceries

When shoppers walk in the door of the Rushford Foods grocery store, things will look the same on the surface, but there’s a small change in the environment that means a big change for grocery shopping.

Groceries and Fetch are now together in the technology age

Rushford Foods is one of the newest stores trying to bring grocery shopping into the technology age with an application called “Fetch,” that seeks to make grocery shopping more efficient for shoppers of all ages. (photo from rushfordfoods.com)

The pop culture saying “there’s an app for that” now applies to grocery shopping.  Rushford Foods is now gone online with an application called Fetch, which is designed to make patrons into more efficient shoppers.  The options on the app are many, but they’re surprisingly easy to learn.

“Fetch is two years old and based in Madison, Wisconsin,” said Tristan Bednarek of Fetch Rewards.   “Chief Executive Officer Wes Schroll is the company’s founder.  As a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he grew frustrated with some aspects of grocery shopping, especially with the length of time it took and the difficulty in finding coupons.  He found a way to fix those problems.”

It’s time to “Fetch” the groceries

The Fetch Rewards company’s “Fetch” grocery shopping application is online at IGA food stores in Rushford, Preston, and Harmony, Minnesota food stores to help make grocery shopping easier for shoppers of all ages. (Photo from superbcrew.org)

Fetch is a free mobile application that shoppers can download onto their smartphones or tablets.  However, if customers don’t own their own device, Rushford Foods will provide tablets for them to use.  All they have to do is check out one at the service counter.

Using an application to help their customers shop isn’t something that Rushford Foods jumped into.  It’s been a process that first began 18 months ago thanks to an article in a college newsletter.

“The founder of Fetch is a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate,” said Rushford Foods co-owner Brad Hoiness, “but I went to school at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and the story appeared the La Crosse newsletter. It peaked my interest, so I drove to Madison and met with his team over there and watched how it’s been developing since then.”The first step in using the app is a simple one:  open up the app on your smart device.

“The Deals page is the first one you see when the application opens up,” said Emma Malone of Rushford Foods. “You grab the coupon you want by hitting the Fetch button.  Coupons can even be divided into categories like Dairy or Frozen foods.”

“The Deals page is the first one you see when the app is running,” said Emma Malone of Rushford Foods. “You grab the coupon you want by hitting the Fetch button.  Coupons can even be divided into categories like Dairy or Frozen foods.”

As shoppers go through the aisles and scan items, they are awarded a certain number of points for each item, and those points are redeemable for free items.

Get the groceries with the new “Fetch” application

Photographs from the Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Mayville WI. where they are using a software app that allows to people to scan products in the store with their phones or the store has 6 loaner tablet devices, receive coupons instantly and have expedited check-out. You also get points and then can get free products. Fetch Rewards is the name of the Madison-based company that sets this up. Here Mike Hansen of Horicon scans in a bar code from the mushrooms he was buying with one of the store’s loaner tablets. (Photo from MICHAEL SEARS/MSEARS@JOURNALSENTINEL.COM)

“As shoppers walk up and down the aisles, they’re scanning everything they’re buying,” Bednarek said.  “The camera on your device will scan the barcodes for you and total up the prices of what you’re buying.  The app uses your camera and you don’t even have to press any buttons to scan something.  It takes the picture all by itself.  The item then gets thrown in your digital cart while you put it in your actual shopping cart.”

The app keeps a running total of what you’ve bought as you scan each item.  It doesn’t add sales tax so the checkout line final total will be a little different.  The application will show you different coupon options available for the items you want to purchase.

“Those coupons you select in the app come off automatically as you shop,” he said.  “When a coupon is available for something you scan and you haven’t selected it previously, you’ll see a pop-up that asks if you want to save money on the item.  All you do is hit the Fetch button.”

Buying produce will be a little different than most of the other items.  You begin by scanning the barcodes on each produce table which will contain several different options.

“Once you scan the barcode,” said Malone, “a list of everything on the table pops up and shoppers will select the one they want.  A blue button on the screen will remind shoppers to take the produce to scales to weigh the product.  Once it’s on the scale, a barcode pops up in the top right corner with the weight and price.  You scan that barcode with your smart device and it goes right into your virtual shopping cart.”

The Fetch Rewards company loads coupons into the application, and their manufacturer partners do too. Each store that signs up with Fetch will offer their own coupons too.

“You’ll get the same store savings using the app,” Bednarik said, “as we’re not replacing anything.  We’re just an addition on top of what the stores are doing.  Customers still have the opportunity to use manufacturer coupons that they clip out of newspapers.”

When the time comes to redeem the bonus points, shoppers should first hit the checkout button.  A list of everything you have will pop up and show how much you saved on each item.  The total number of points available determines how many of the shopping items will be free.  Each item will cost a certain number of redeemable points and the more of those shoppers have, the more they save.

Fetch Rewards just partnered with a company called Shop Well and the application can now flag nutritional information as well.  This is especially important for shoppers who suffer from food allergies or simply want to live healthier.

“They provide us with nutritional information,” Bednarek said.  “If you scan an item, you have the option to look at its ingredients list and it gives information like sodium content or cholesterol amounts.  Shoppers can even update their profiles to include food allergies and gluten intolerance.  All those things can be flagged so that when you scan an item, it will let you know.”

Southeast Minnesota grocery stores where Fetch is now available include Rushford Foods, as well as Harmony Foods and Preston Foods.  All three IGA food stores just went live with the application for the first time last Wednesday.

“We’ve trained the employees first, getting them comfortable and familiar with the app,” Bednarek said.  “They can answer any questions customers ask.

“We’ve also had several people use it to check out their groceries and they’ve said it’s very easy to learn,” Bednarek added.  “I’ve even had people tell me it turned grocery shopping a little more fun, which is not something you hear on a regular basis.”

Here’s a demonstration video I put together when I was doing the story for Bluff Country News.  I didn’t actually intend to put it up for public viewing, but I thought it would give a decent enough idea of how Fetch works.  If you put your playback on the HD setting, I think the picture is good enough to understand.  Of course, you can also go to Rushford Foods or any of the other stores that have it for more  information.

Chad