PROGRESS 2022: Zamora Fresh Market gets a fresh look

At left, the Zamora building before repairs in 2020, and at right, the building afterward.

The construction on the lower-level storefront of Zamora Fresh Market was completed this year, and Jose Zaragoza and his family — who have owned and operated the grocery store for over a decade — were overjoyed to see the long-awaited finished product.

The façade of the building was severely damaged by the 2018 tornado and the 2020 derecho, and America Zaragoza, Jose’s daughter, said getting it fixed was an expensive endeavor due to material requirements and other construction setbacks.

To fund the repairs, the Zaragoza family began looking for grants to help pay for the damage caused by the natural disasters, and they approached Marshalltown Central Business District (MCBD) Executive Director Deb Millizer for help with the daunting task.

Millizer, along with the Region Six Planning Commission, helped the family apply for about $75,000 through the 2020 Challenge grant. To qualify, Millizer said the project had to be impactful to the community, and after submitting the application, the Zaragozas were awarded the grant in late 2020.

From there, construction was a go, and repairs started in spring 2021. Originally, the estimated cost for completion came in at just over $150,000, but once work started, other problems with the building arose. They had initially thought the primary issue was the brick veneer pulling away, but they later found out that the upstairs wall had also buckled.

“It was kind of like when you do a house project, and you start off with one thing. And then you find something else when you’re doing it, so that happened to the Zamora’s project,” Millizer said.

T-R PHOTO BY SUSANNA MEYER —America Zaragoza, left, and Jose Zaragoza, right. The father/daughter duo stood in front of the newly repaired lower level of their family run business, Zamora Fresh Market. The facade of the building took heavy damage during the 2018 tornado and the 2020 derecho, and after several years of hard work and determination, the building repairs are well on their way to being completed.

Cornerstone Construction, the company that worked on the Zamora building, told the Zaragozas that the buckled wall could potentially collapse at any moment, so the issue needed to be resolved.

“We were going to need to do a temporary fix or a long-term fix, and there was just no point in doing a temporary fix just to have to end up doing a long-term fix. So just that alone was very pricey, and it did take a lot more time. That was probably the hardest bump in the road, honestly,” America Zaragoza said.

To make up for those new costs, they applied for incentive grants through the city in order to complete the necessary repairs, and the construction was finally completed just recently. The façade is as good as new, and the lower-level windows leave ample room to show off the store’s products.

While they were contemplating using some of their awarded grant money to repair the upper- level windows, with the additional expenses connected to the façade, they were unable to make it work financially. The estimate to repair the windows came in at approximately $200,000, but they are hoping to revisit it in the future.

“We did have to take a step back with the issues that came up with the façade. But slowly, we’re going to try and get that going because that would benefit us a lot,” America Zaragoza said. “We’re just looking to just save up some money to help do that.”

They plan to eventually apply for another grant to complete the upper-level repairs, and even though they can’t jump into the project immediately, they are working towards that goal.

Millizer was glad to work with the Zaragozas on the project, and she commended them for their efforts in restoring the building to its former glory.

“This family has saved a historic building. They could have easily went and built a Morton building somewhere and moved off of Main Street. They could have taken their business elsewhere, but they chose to save this historic building, and it’s going to take time,” Millizer said.

Even though they could have technically relocated, America Zaragoza said remaining in their original spot — despite the damage — was important to them for a variety of reasons.

“We’ve just owned this building and we’ve kind of made it how we want it already, and it would just be a lot harder to replace that, and the location is phenomenal. I mean, we do lack a little bit of parking, but the location is great. Our set-up is already really good, and we have everything in place,” she said. “If we were to have to relocate, I’m not even sure if we would do it because it’s just a lot of work.”

Zamora Fresh Market has progressed a great deal in the years following the tornado and derecho, but the Zaragozas are far from finished with their future improvements.

On top of saving up and preparing for the next phase of building repairs, they’ve also been connected with an Iowa State University professor who wants to have an interior design class visit Zamora to rethink the interior layout and flow this fall.

With exciting times on the rise for Zamora Fresh Market, America stressed that the progress in the building repairs wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support from community organizations like the MCBD, Region Six and the Marshalltown Chamber of Commerce.

“The city’s always, like, our number one supporter honestly,” America Zaragoza said. “They made the process a lot easier. A lot easier, because on our own, it would have been nearly impossible for us to even work, and also get all that help at the same time. So it was honestly a lot of help from all these other people.”

Zamora Fresh Market, located at 4 E. Main St., is just one of the many businesses and buildings downtown that are working towards full recovery after the tornado and derecho, and more progress on that front is sure to be on the horizon in the coming months and years.


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