Life

Jefferson County Realty moves into new office

Above each desk is a piece of decorative wall art. (Andy Hallman/The Union)
Above each desk is a piece of decorative wall art. (Andy Hallman/The Union)
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FAIRFIELD – Jefferson County Realty has moved into a new office on the west side of the square in Fairfield.

The business moved into the northernmost of the three storefronts of the Elks Building. The firm was previously housed just a stone’s throw away on West Broadway Avenue near the former Co-Ed Theater, where it had been since 2014.

Jefferson County Realty’s new office was most recently occupied by Fairfield Nutrition. When the lease switched hands in November 2019, the building underwent minor remodeling with fresh paint, a new conference room and a new interior arrangement for its new tenants.

A few months later in February, it underwent some unexpected remodeling when a motorist accidently drove a car into the office’s large storefront window. Co-owner Doug Alexander and his son Jeff were inside at the time and witnessed the whole thing. Luckily, nobody was hurt.

The storefront had to cover its “black eye” with a piece of plywood for a few weeks until the large window could be replaced.

Alexander said he moved the business to its current location because he liked the idea of being right on the square, as opposed to just off it. He said it makes the business more visible. He likes how the new office has an open floorplan with triple the space of the old office.

When a person walks in the door, they can see all of the agents at their desks. In the old office on West Broadway, agents were more separated from each other.

Alexander is the secretary of Fairfield Elks, which owns the building and has its lodge upstairs. Being in the club has its perks, and one of which was that Alexander was first to learn that Fairfield Nutrition was going to move out of its storefront.

That gave Alexander the chance to move to the square like he had wanted to do for years.

Not only that, but the Fairfield Elks building was among those to receive a new façade during the downtown façade improvement program a couple of years ago. The program involved putting new awnings up on the storefronts of the Elks’ building.

Alexander has not always been a Realtor. In fact, he had a few careers before he got into realty more than a decade ago.

His first career was managing restaurants, which began in Ames when he was a student at Iowa State University. Alexander went back and forth between taking classes and saving money for his education by working at the local McDonald’s.

In short order, he worked his way up to managing the McDonald’s.

“My supervisor apparently saw leadership qualities in me,” Alexander said. “I was a farm kid, and I had a good work ethic.”

Alexander grew up south of Des Moines and attended the Interstate 35 Community School District, which is also the alma mater of Iowa’s governor, Kim Reynolds.

“Her father and my father carpooled together to John Deere in Ankeny,” Alexander said.

Alexander worked in the restaurant business for almost 25 years, including a stint running a McDonald’s in Knoxville, from which he was then offered the chance to run the McDonald’s in Fairfield in 1988, which is how he ended up here.

Alexander took over the restaurant from Dale and Barb Frederick. While Alexander managed the Fairfield McDonald’s, he oversaw the opening of the McDonald’s in Mt. Pleasant.

Before Alexander married his wife, Judy, he worked as a chamber executive in Albia and Carroll. He ran the Country Kitchen in Ottumwa from 1996 to 2002, when he started selling cars for Clemons in Fairfield and later in Ottumwa.

After working for Clemons, Alexander hung up his spurs, thinking he was going to enjoy retirement. His retirement lasted six months.

“Judy felt I had too much time on my hands and suggested I get into realty,” Alexander joked.

The couple’s son Jeff had informed them he wanted to go into realty, and before the son could even start, Doug had finished his realty classes and begun working under Rose Kennedy at Fairfield Farm & Home.

Alexander began working for her in 2008 and did that job until 2011 when he started his own firm, Jefferson County Realty. The company’s first office was on West Burlington Avenue across the street from the State Farm office. The owners of the building wanted to sell it, and Alexander wanted to be closer to the square anyway, so in 2014 the company moved to an office on West Broadway Avenue.

Today, Jeff works for Doug as an agent and is a partner in the firm, along with Judy. The other agents are Kandi Diers, Michele Faith, Olivia Clark and Kathie Gray. In the realty business, agents are independent contractors and not employees of the firm they work for. They share in the office expenses and all benefit from the advertising that lets the public know about them.

Alexander said the public response to the move has been positive.

“We’ve got a big storefront window with a large screen TV in it that runs pictures of all my agents, their listings and contact info,” Alexander said. “We’ve never had a storefront window we’ve had to decorate before, so that’s something new and different.”