The DuPont General Store is well into its second year after it celebrated a year of business in October.
There have been challenges, owner Sandy Ikemeier acknowledged, but you’d never know it. Enter her store and she’s bound to greet you, or ask you about your day, or perhaps point something out to you in the store, or if you’re a repeat customer, she might give you a hug.
She’s also quick to talk up the food that her commercial kitchen and staff are producing from scratch, which is then sold in the form of soups, salads, baked goods or ready-to-eat meals that she calls “comfort meals.”
The days are long — Ikemeier said she’s working 20 hours a day — and she’s encountered the headaches that all small businesses encounter, including the various taxes she has to pay and licensing requirements she has to meet.
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In her first year, she lamented spending more than $80,000 in taxes, Ikemeier said.
But she’s still managed to employ 16 and fill out a 3,000-square-foot space with a little bit of everything. The store sells just about all that you would find in a grocery store, except for alcohol and tobacco products (the business next door sells those items), plus household items such as dishes, hardware products, paper products, diapers and personal hygiene products.
Most of all, Ikemeier is filled with words of praise for the DuPont community, describing them as beautiful, wonderful and supportive.
“If they didn’t care, I’d hand the key back,” she said.
On a recent Monday, they came out to support her once again, streaming through the business to get something fresh for lunch.
Jeff Blank, who owns a longtime lawn-care business called Blade Masters in DuPont, sat down to get some soup. He regularly has lunch there, he said, wanting to avoid the fast-food choices in the area for a healthier alternative.
Jon Curtis of DuPont, another regular, also stopped by on that same Monday. Curtis, too, said he was one of the first to shop at the store when it opened a year ago.
Curtis, who uses a wheelchair, praised the fact that there’s a place nearby where he can pick out his own food. He used to have food delivered by one of the major grocery stores in the region, but didn’t have that much control over the selection, he said.
Ikemeier’s store also has paid homage to the city’s history, with old photos showing the company town when it was home to an explosives manufacturing plant operated by DuPont, or the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.
One such photo shows a man gesturing toward a sign that reads: “This plant has gone 365 days without a lost-time injury. Are you going to spoil our record?”