New owner of Bloomers on Central is FD graduate
Rebecca Reitmeier, owner of Bloomers on Central, sits to enjoy a cup of coffee at the recently reopened downtown business. One of Reitmeier’s first jobs while attending Fort Dodge Senior High was at Bloomers. She purchased the business from Joanne Peterson and Kristen Utley in August. The fish tank pictured next to Reitmeier is housed in an old TV console. The TV was hauled from California to Iowa during the summer.
One of Rebecca Reitmeier’s first high school jobs was working at Bloomers, a coffee shop that has been a mainstay in Fort Dodge since the early 1990s.
She worked for the original owner, Michelle Elbert, before eventually working under JoAnne Peterson and her daughter, Kristen Utley, the most recent owners.
In all, Reitmeier was an employee at Bloomers from 1996-2004 before moving to California for several years.
Reitmeier was well-liked by customers and the owners.
“They always told me when I worked for them, jokingly, that I would be the next owner,” Reitmeier said. “So I guess I’m fulfilling my destiny here.”
Reitmeier, a 1998 Fort Dodge Senior High graduate, returned to Fort Dodge in recent years. She took ownership of the business in August after learning that Peterson was retiring.
She took a couple months to remodel the space at 900 Central Ave., Suite #10, before reopening Oct. 27. Bloomers had been closed since March, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the eye-catching features inside the shop includes a fish tank made out of a retro TV console.
The old TV was driven from California to Iowa over the summer.
“It was just at someone’s house and they were getting rid of it and I thought it would make a cool fish tank,” Reitmeier said. “It wouldn’t fit into the back part of the RV so it was in the front seat of the RV the whole 1,800 miles.”
Reitmeier also added all new furniture and fresh coats of paint.
"I was going for a comfortable vibe where people want to sit and meet their friends,” Reitmeier said. “Before I was even open there was an older couple that walked by and said they saw people meeting in here and that it looked like a scene from a movie. They just thought it looked so cozy inside. A place where you can come into and feel like you’re at home but you’re not.”
Hard and soft seating is available for customers. The east wall is brick.
“The brick wall here is awesome,” Reitmeier said. “I always wanted a house with a brick wall, so this is close enough.”
She enjoys the atmosphere of working in a coffee shop.
“People are generally happy when they come in the place because they know they are going to get coffee or something to eat,” she said. “People are generally in a good mood. I like the barista part where it’s sort of like a bartender but you’re not dealing with alcohol. But also the stories you hear from people. Customers become your family. They come in every day. You get to know what’s happening.”
While living in California, Reitmeier continued to gain experience in the business. She worked at a place called the Neighborhood Cup in Aliso Viejo, California.
“I was there the first day they opened, from 2005 to 2010,” she said. “And I also volunteered at an assisted living home and played piano there.”
Her experience at the Neighborhood Cup was valuable.
“I learned a lot as far as the way coffee should be and creating things with the same consistency every time and keeping it a family atmosphere, too,” she said. “They were like family to me. In a lot of ways, that’s why I stayed out in California because I met them and met my friends through them. They had a knack of creating this environment that opened up to the community.”
In 2011, Reitmeier was on a first date on Halloween night when she was hit by a car while walking across the street. She suffered multiple injuries.
Reitmeier, who had also worked as a lab technician in the early 2000s, decided she would go back to school to earn a degree in health care management.
She would go on to work in sales and marketing for an assisted living home. At one point, she worked as a barista at an upscale appliance and fixture store.
She never planned to stay in California as long as she did, but Reitmeier said she appreciates the experiences she had while there.
“I was going to leave for six months and it ended up being a lot longer than six months,” she said.
In 2017, she and her husband decided it was time to move back to Iowa.
“I was pregnant, it was really expensive out there,” she said. “My husband and I are also missionaries in El Salvador for part of the year. We weren’t going to be able to continue that and have a child and live in really expensive Orange County, California.”
Although Reitmeier has worked as a barista in multiple coffee shops, she was nervous when first opening the doors as an owner.
“I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I was hoping there wouldn’t be a line out the door. Right now it’s me, myself and the rest of my family just helping out. I hoped it would be something I could handle. So far it’s been steady and not too overwhelming.”
In addition to running a business, Reitmeier is an academic assistant at Iowa Central Community College.
Reitmeier has added some new items to the Bloomers menu.
“I kept a lot of the things the same for made-to-order sandwiches because I wanted customers who had been coming here for years and years to feel like they were at home here,” she said. “But I brought in some different salads, some breakfast items. The Acai Bowl is a new addition along with breakfast sandwiches.”
On the coffee side, Bloomers offers iced coffee drinks and blended espresso drinks.
“I brought it new coffee from where I had worked in California,” Reitmeier said.
Reitemeier uses Kean Cofee and Klatch Coffee.
“I brought in those companies,” she said. “That’s where I get the beans. I worked at each of those two places. Those are the two companies where I knew it was high-quality coffee and high-quality beans.”
Reitmeier has also added a panini press to offer hot sandwiches during the winter time.
Some popular items on the menu include the Lavender Latte, White Chocolate Macadsmia Nut Mocha and the English Toffee Mocha.
The seven-layer bars are a popular holdover item.
“We have people that come in just for those,” she said.
When she has a chance to enjoy a beverage herself, Reitmeier said a plain cup of coffee does her just fine.
“If it’s good beans and good water, I am happy with just a hot cup of coffee,” she said. “Otherwise I like iced coffee with some sort of flavoring on it or some cream.”
Bloomers also sells smoothies.
Reitmeier is happy to be part of the revitalization efforts in downtown.
“In California, generally main streets in these little towns that have grown bigger, that’s their hoppin’ place,” she said. “I think Fort Dodge downtown is beautiful, so I love they are trying to make that more of a scene.”
She appreciates the welcoming attitude of most Iowans.
“The people who come into the shop, one of the things that made it so I wasn’t so nervous, Iowans and Fort Dodge seem to be forgiving,” Reitmeier said. “If I was opening in California, people don’t seem so forgiving sometimes because there’s so many options out there that they maybe don’t give you a second chance.”