ROCK VALLEY, Iowa --The owners of a grocery chain in Rock Valley have decided to turn over the business to a new owner. 

The Van Otterloo family, the longtime proprietors of Van's Marketplace Foods, have sold the business to Sunshine Foods. The grocery chain, which has 15 locations -- including in Rock Rapids, Hawarden and Milford, Iowa -- will take over Van's Marketplace in mid-July, according to a press release from the company. 

Van's Marketplace Foods will remain open during the transition. The Van Otterloo family has been in the grocery business in Rock Valley for nearly six decades. 

Kevin Van Otterloo, the store's current owner and mayor of Rock Valley, said in a statement that the decision to sell didn't come easily. 

“It’s never an easy decision to leave something you’ve spent your entire career doing and that’s been a part of your family for decades, but knowing we are passing the torch to another family and community-orientated business makes leaving a lot easier,” Van Otterloo said.

Sunshine Foods belongs to a cooperative of more than 3,900 grocery stores, according to the release. The chain, which stresses on its website the importance of shopping locally, has locations in Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota, primarily in small towns. 

The move comes as independent small-town grocers have struggled against declining populations and competition from big-box stores, online shopping and national chain stores like Dollar General. The sole grocery store in Correctionville, Iowa, closed permanently in mid-April after failing to find a buyer for the store at auction. 

According to a survey conducted by the University of Minnesota, 63 percent of small-town grocery operators do not plan to own the store in 10 years. 

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