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Local Developer Finds Opportunities in Ottumwa

Curt Hopkins calls himself a developer, entrepreneur and restaurateur. If those are akin to an art-form, then Ottumwa, Iowa, is his canvas. The 47-year old lived most of his life in Ottumwa, before moving to Albia a few years ago with his wife and four children. After obtaining his Associate of Arts degree from Indian Hills Community College and working for Pella Windows, he decided to try his hand at business development. His first foray was as a franchisee Pizza Ranch in 2005. And Hopkins has taken to business development quite nicely! He now owns eight Pizza Ranches throughout Central Iowa. Not wanting to have all his eggs in one basket, Hopkins has branched out in recent years on other local ventures. Below, Hopkins discusses those ventures and why Ottumwa is an excellent location for entrepreneurs. 

Hopkins and family at their Mustard Seed Co. Home Inspirations store.

Properties owned by Curt Hopkins in Ottumwa 

"I would tell any other investor, entrepreneur or business professional to never count Ottumwa out."

How has your development in Ottumwa progressed with time?
We have operated the Pizza Ranch since 2012 and it has always been one of the best we own, in terms of highest sales and profitability. We are proud to employ 25 people at this location. My wife and I opened the Mustard Seed Home Inspirations store in Albia in 2017, then chose to bring another to Ottumwa because we felt it would resonate with the town and fit in as a much-needed retail piece. I also created a construction company in 2019, which now has 11 employees to help build out my projects. This has allowed me to vertically integrate to help hold costs down on projects and gives me more control on timelines of completion.

What is it about the Ottumwa area that makes it an inviting location for an entrepreneur?
I feel Ottumwa can sometimes be overlooked by developers due to a population being below 50,000, lower income levels and lower median household value. The demographic numbers are not what a typical developer finds appealing, because a lot of big box retail like larger towns. But I still like the size of the market and see the town as a good retail trade hub. We have a lot of great people in Ottumwa, with a high enough population level to be a good base and draw a lot of out-of-town shoppers, including many from Missouri. Ottumwa craves new things and new opportunities to dine and shop, which provides more room for good retail and industry.  

How does the Ottumwa business community help entrepreneurs be successful?
The City of Ottumwa’s White Box Grant program has enabled me to complete three of my projects on Church Street. This helps me do a better, more extensive build out of my properties. The local economic development group, Greater Ottumwa Partners in Progress (GOPIP),  has been proactive in educating me on what is possible in the area. Sharon Stroh, VP of Industrial Development with GOPIP, has reached out with a lot of possible business opportunities. The City of Ottumwa Planning and Development Director Kevin Flanagan is always available to meet with entrepreneurs, and has provided TIF area information to me.  

What advice do you have for other professionals about doing business in Ottumwa?
I would tell any other investor, entrepreneur or business professional to never count Ottumwa out. It's a wonderful trade area with plenty of low hanging fruit and opportunity. The city and GOPIP have capable talent that is aggressive and able to help make projects happen. This community welcomes new business with open arms and provides resources for qualifying projects.    

What are your plans for the future?
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected my restaurant business, damaging our sales extensively. But outside the restaurant, we have been extremely busy and I look forward to that trend continuing. We plan to continue to do real estate development in Ottumwa and we like to work with new businesses. We are hoping to build a new strip center in 2022 at the Wildwood site and are planning for two more Stow Away properties.

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