Team members and customers celebrate reopening of Iowa travel stop years after flood
For Restaurant General Manager Jamie Sindel-Conway, Dec. 9, 2021 felt like a homecoming at her store in Pacific Junction, Iowa. Love's 704 opened its doors for the first time to customers in more than two-and-a-half years.
"It was so overwhelming," Jamie said. "Some of the folks who had become regulars before were screaming across the room, they were so happy to see us."
The scene was much different in March 2019, a time that would impact Jamie's life in more ways than one. Amidst historic spring flooding, the rising Missouri River, just a couple miles away on a normal day, overtook the store with more than six feet of water on the inside, forcing the location to close just a year after it had first opened.
The flood also destroyed Jamie's home, which was right next to the river.
"I always considered myself a river rat," Jamie said. "It was devastating, but my husband (Gemini Driver Zach Conway) and I received assistance through Love's Employee Emergency Fund, which offered a lot of peace of mind."
With the future of Love's 704 uncertain, Jamie, who had been an overnight shift lead, chose to stay on with the company and transferred to Love's 676, nearly an hour away in Syracuse, Nebraska.
While there, she embraced a promotion opportunity to become assistant manager at the Hardee's. That role prepared her well for her newest job - leading the Subway restaurant team at her old store.
"The commute was less than ideal, but I knew it was worth it to continue my career at Love's," Jamie said. "This will be the company I'll retire from."
The reopening of Love's 704 also means hope for the recovery of Pacific Junction as a whole. Following the devastating flood, hundreds of people opted for a FEMA buyout and moved away, rather than rebuild their homes. With eyes on making a comeback, town officials purchased about 30 properties, which can be rebuilt on. The opening of Love's 704 brought back more than 40 jobs to the community, and Jamie and her husband are among several families who have chosen to return to Pacific Junction.
"We definitely live on a hill now (laughs) as far away from the water as we can be in town," Jamie said. "It's been wonderful, being able to return, and being with my team in a brand-new store on the inside."