CEDAR FALLS — Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy Outlet in Cedar Falls is broadening its business and expanding into space once occupied by the China Wok Restaurant.
China Wok, which had operated on the site, at 123 E. 18th St. in Cedar Falls, since the early 1980s, was closed recently. The closure was unexpected, Jordan Hansen, a spokeswoman for the Hudson-based dairy operation, said in an email note.
Hansen’s owns the 5,000-square-foot building, which serves as a retail outlet for its dairy products, as well as a convenience store and gas station. Hansen’s has operated a dairy outlet in the building for nine years, said Jay Hansen, retired farmer and partner.
China Wok’s owner, Jose Hernandez, who had bought the business from its founding owners, the Kuo family, several years ago, could not be reached for comment.
The restaurant’s departure was not related to plans the Hansen family already had been developing for the building, Jordan Hansen said.
“We have been discussing plans for the Outlet and gas station for several months, and we had not planned to make any changes to his tenant status or his area of the building,” she said. “We had planned to keep him as a tenant for the foreseeable future. When he told us of his intent to close his doors, we even tried to work with him so he could keep going, but he very abruptly closed and left.”
Hansen’s had a “good relationship” with Hernandez, so the closure came as a surprise, Jordan Hansen said.
“He paid his March rent but closed shortly after that,” she said. “We believe his leaving just came at a coincidental time to our gas station plans.”
Meanwhile, Hansen’s, which bought the property early in 2015, had been planning to expand its presence for some time, Jay Hansen said.
“We had the opportunity to purchase the building and we liked our location,” he said. “Our customers like our location, so we felt that that was going to be a positive move for us.”
Hansen’s bought the property to “protect our territory there,” Jay Hansen said.
Last week, Hansen’s officially dropped its affiliation with Conoco gasoline. The business has an unbranded “gasoline side,” and a “Local Food” side.
New signage went up Wednesday, featuring a newly designed Hansen logo.
“We’ve kind of operated under the radar the first year to get a feel for the gas station and convenience store operations,” Jay Hansen said.
They learned a lot, Hansen noted.
“We’ve learned about gas distribution, about habits of gas-buying customers,” he said. “We’ve learned some habits from convenience store customers, things they like to buy, and not so much. We’ve learned about our clientele, particular to our location, vs. location on interstate or cross-country-type location. We got a feel for profitability.”
Now, it’s time to look into upgrading the building inside and out and “make it so people want to come back,” Hansen said.
“We’ve always wanted to do a drive-up, and now we have the opportunity to do a drive-up,” he said. “Our customers wanted full service ice cream business and we have that opportunity.”
As for gasoline sales, there’s a lesson learned there, too, Hansen said.
“Now, we’re looking into the aspect of branding our own gas,” he said. “Apparently, all gas comes from the same pipelines, the same terminals. Other businesses related to what we’re doing have connected milk and gasoline sales together. Being that we’ve already branded our milk, we’re thinking it’s a good business move to connect it with the gas.”
Milk, fuel and a convenience store are the heart of the business, but ice cream will serve as a nice complement, Hansen said.
“We’re hoping the ice cream added in, we feel it’s a great piggy-back,” he said. “People drive up to get a shake, and they might as well get some gas. People stop in for milk and may as well get some gas, as long as they’re there.”
Hansen’s also operates Moo Roo Hansen’s Dairy at 3015 Kimball Ave., in Waterloo, in addition to the family’s dairy operation at 8461 Lincoln Road in Hudson.