Founded in 1870, Pocahontas has under 2,000 residents today. Like many rural towns, it has lost population in recent decades, but there is no loss of community spirit.
Our Out and About Correspondent Dan Kaercher recently visited. Before we arrived, the local movie theater put a notice in the paper that IPTV would be taping at the restored movie house. They invited residents to show up and show their support for the town.
Well, you’ll see what happened.
The big statue of the young Native American woman who befriended Captain John Smith tells you where you are. Pocahontas is formally referred to as The Princess City. Residents affectionately call their town “poky.” But this community is anything but that.
Start at the Courthouse, which features a new memorial to all the men and women of Pocahontas County who’ve served since the Civil War. Residents are justifiably proud of it, and we found it very moving and inspiring.
Pocahontas has a swimming pool, soccer fields and parks, a golf course with watered fairways, a library with wireless internet access, a hospital and clinics that just underwent a $5.8 million remodeling and renovation, and a school with award winning students in academics, sports, mock trial and vocational technology.
Then there’s a drug store, a grocery, 3 banks, an appliance store and a new motel with a lot of local investors.
Pocahontas has all the requisites of a good life.
Of course, like many rural Iowa communities there is no longer a clothing store and you can’t buy much furniture here, but new businesses are replacing the old and adding to the economic base.
Leslie Petri opened Ewe-phoria Yarns in August, 2006. She was a lawyer in Denver, her husband an industrial designer. But they wanted a different life.
Leslie Petri, Ewe-Phoria Yarns: “We have two little girls who are twelve and nine and we wanted them to have a chance to grow up as kids and be able to go places.”
For now, more of Leslie’s business comes from the internet than foot traffic, which is why they can live here. And you can always find other knitters no matter where you are.
This bowling alley is in what used to be the Ben Franklin store in Pocahontas. The owner’s son, like many young Iowans, left town for good when he finished college.
In 2005, Rich Levene came back with his family ... and opened the Family Fun Zone and next door’s Sidelines Sports Bar and Grill.
Rich Levene, Family Fun Zone: “We’re not as worried about what the kids are doing, where they’re at, we feel safer in our own house, feel safer in our own cars. Life is a lot more stress free.”
Pocahontas has had a Ford dealership since the early 1900s. In 1991, Pocahontas Ford Lincoln Mercury got new owners from Sioux Falls. They came to town because they saw more opportunity here for their family and their business.
Gus Holzmueller, Pocahontas Ford Lincoln Mercury: “A dealership in a metro area is so expensive that I couldn’t afford it. I wanted a Ford Lincoln Mercury dealership because Ford has been one of the strongest manufacturers over the years for supporting the small town.”
Armstrong Machine Co. sells new mud pumps for drilling as well as manufacturing parts and rebuilding used pumps.
Owner Cliff Porter donated to the vocational technology program at the high school where students now can make lasered parts for Armstrong.
Their work could end up in any of the 50 states or 57 foreign countries.
Armstrong came here in 1977 with support from the city.
Cliff Porter, Armstrong Machine Co. “They just bent over backwards to get electricity to me. And I started out in this other building over here then we hadn’t built this building here yet, and the city manager come down and says well if you want to expand why we’ll loan you money.”
Pocahontas strongly promotes business. In fact, it boasts that it’s the only town under 2000 population in the state that has it’s own Economic Development Director.
But it isn’t all about money.
First opened in the 1930s, the Rialto Theater was restored by the community in the 1990s after it had been closed for a while. The Disney movie Pocahontas even had a premiere here.
Mayor Brian Blomker, Pocahontas: “It’s something the community wants to keep here. We have a school that uses it. We got a lot of kids in here that get to use it. We put on plays. We do community chorus. It’s city owned but yet it’s kept going by the people.”
Pocahontas is a community that works, in every sense of the word.