EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of the Press & Dakotan’s monthly series spotlighting occupations, tasks and duties in our coverage area.
The new leader of Yankton’s Hy-Vee team has a passion for coaching and customer service.
Ben Conway, the new Hy-Vee store director, took over at the Yankton store early this month after former store director Tonya Graff retired. The Jackson, Nebraska, native got his start with Hy-Vee when he was still in school, and went on to work across the Great Plains for Hy-Vee in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and South Dakota. One location he remembered with particular fondness was the Save U More (the predecessor to the current Hy-Vee store) in Yankton, where he worked under former store director Brad Dykes, Graff’s predecessor.
“I am just really happy to be back in the community,” Conway said. “Yankton has always been a special place to me. This is also where I met my wife, Shelly. She’s from Yankton. So it’s kind of a homecoming for us and for our family. To come back and run a store that I managed once with someone that is pretty special to me, Brad Dykes — to be able to come back and pick up where he left off, and where Tonya left off — I am proud to be here.”
Conway got his start with Hy-Vee in the South Sioux City, Nebraska, store where he worked through high school and college.
“Once I was done with school, I had the opportunity to come to Yankton,” Conway said. “I worked here (at the Save U More) under Brad Dykes from ’97 to ’99. Then, I left here and I went to Kansas City, and I worked in the Kansas City market for about three years. I went to Sioux Falls, where I was at the store on Minnesota Avenue about five (years).”
About 10 years ago, Conway received his first store directorship in Maryville, Missouri. Two years later, he transferred to Ames, Iowa, where he remained for eight years.
As happy as Conway was in Ames, when the store directorship in Yankton became available, he applied.
“This is where our family’s at,” Conway said. “We’ve been away (from) anywhere close to family for about 10 years. To be able to come back, to be around my mom, Shelly’s mom, her parents, was just a great opportunity. We have a lot of friends here. It’s pretty nice to be this close, and to come back to where we were.”
Conway said he was settling in nicely at the helm of the Yankton Hy-Vee, and noted happily that he already knew a lot of people, including veteran Hy-Vee employees.
He is looking forward to the different seasonal pace that Yankton’s Hy-Vee has to offer, Conway said.
“When I was in Ames, my store was very dependent on Iowa State; that was our clientele,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to come back here and have the opportunity to be in Yankton, with all the different things that Yankton has to offer — as far as the lake community, and the changes from season to season. It’s a real steady environment to be a part of.”
Conway said that one of the great things about Hy-Vee is that store directors have a lot of autonomy when it comes to getting the job done, and that his personal management style would likely vary from Graff’s.
“I think Tonya did a great job while she was here,” He said. “My philosophies are going to be different, but our core values are going to remain the same. What I plan to bring here is to be a great merchant and to give great service to all of our customers, and that’s what I know I can provide here.”
Conway’s passion as a store director lies in seeing his people do well, he said.
“My biggest passion is coaching” Conway said. “You know, I coach 400 people every day and I love it, so that’s what keeps me doing it. I look at it every day as just teaching and training, and I love that part of the job. I love to see people succeed.”
Also, he is pleased with what he has found as he familiarizes himself with the store, the people and the merchandise, Conway said.
“I’ve been very impressed with our team here and with a lot of department managers,” he said. “What I want to do is make sure that we have the items that our customers want, and understand what Yankton wants.”
As much as he plans to rely on customer feedback, Conway also said that he plans to be proactive when it comes to introducing the customer to new things.
“There’ll be times when we will bring some different wines in and different trends,” he said. “That’s what our job is, and I think that Hy-Vee puts us in a good position to always stay ahead of our competition.”
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