Latham® dealers Pete and Bonnie Wilhite of Corwith, Iowa, give “full service” new meaning. When customers stop by Corwith Farm Service on Main Street, they can pick up everything from alfalfa pellets (yes, rabbit food) to fresh ground hamburger. Patrons can also enjoy a cup of fresh-brewed coffee, play a game of cards and place their seed orders for the year.
The Wilhites bought the town’s grocery store, formerly known as Ron’s Food Center, in April 2010. The previous owners, Ron and Mary Cronin, had operated the store since August 1975 and were looking to sell once Ron was diagnosed with cancer. The sale of the business to someone locally – and to a friend no less – helped bring some peace of mind to the Cronins and community members alike since an independent grocery store is the heart of a small town.
After purchasing the grocery store, the Wilhites made a few changes. They added a coffee corner and began selling deli sandwiches for people in need of “grab and go” lunches. They also added more fresh fruits and vegetables to their product offering.
There was a learning curve, admits Bonnie. It’s hard to gauge what will be a good seller, so sometimes the family’s meals are based on what needs to move from the grocery store shelves. Corwith Farm Services cuts its own meat, so Pete had to learn how to operate the saws and grinders. Fortunately, the same person who had been working at Ron’s Food Center for the past 10 years continued working when the store changed hands. The Wilhites also added an additional employee to the payroll.
Pete works at the store each week day from 7 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. He carries out groceries, and if need be, he’ll make deliveries. Bonnie spends Fridays at the store, after working 40 hours from Monday through Thursday as the operating room and emergency room supervisor for Hancock County Memorial Hospital in Britt.
“Corwith Farm Services isn’t a job to me,” says Bonnie with her ever-present smile. “All week I’m helping with surgeries and dealing with emergencies, so the grocery store is really an outlet for me. On Fridays I get to catch up with friends and with bookwork.”
In addition to their “day jobs,” Pete and Bonnie farm. They raise corn and soybeans plus have cows and calves on pasture from spring to fall. Both of their children were active in 4-H and showed cattle at the county fair.
“We love living in the country and are glad we were able to raise our kids on the farm,” says Bonnie. “There is always something to do. When our kids were younger, I didn’t have to worry about where they were because they couldn’t go anywhere without us driving them!”
The Wilhites’ kids are on the go now. Their 21-year-old daughter, Chelcee, is in her final semester at Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids. She is working at the medical clinic in Britt before returning to the classroom in February. In May, she will complete her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). Lucas, age 20, is a sophomore at Iowa State University in Ames where he’s majoring in business. (Lucas is also seeking a summer internship, so you know whom to call if you’re looking to hire!)
While their college kids are home on break, Bonnie is sure to mix up a few of their favorite foods including homemade pizza and Mexican Corn Dip. This dip, along with Cyclone-colored tortilla chips, is on the menu for Dec. 30 when Iowa State takes on Rutgers during the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium.
Easy Homemade Pizza
- 1 package yeast
- 1- 1/4 c. warm water
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 to 4 c. flour
Mix and knead. (The more you knead, the lighter the dough is.)
Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
Put in pizza pans and top with your favorite toppings.
Bake 375° until it appears done.
Mexican Corn Dip
- 3 cans of corn (I have used 3 cups of frozen corn instead)
- 1 can green chilies
- 1 small onion
- Jalapenos to taste
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup salad dressing (mayonnaise)
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tsp. chili powder
Mix together and refrigerate 2 hours before serving. Serve with tortilla chips.