Growing up on a farm in east-central Iowa, Tom Porth graduated from Calamus High School in 1974 and then attended Black Hawk College, where he played baseball. While in college, Tom took a part-time job at a Village Inn Restaurant.
When Tom took a year off from school, he took on more hours at Village Inn working all facets of the business – waiting tables, hosting, cooking, food preparation, etc., and eventually, Village Inn reached out with a management opportunity in the Quad Cities area. Tom steadily moved up the ranks of the organization, overseeing several stores in his Iowa region – and met his future wife, Maureen, when she was working a holiday shift in West Des Moines.
In 1986, changing dynamics in the company gave Tom an opportunity to acquire several restaurants spun off from the core organization. Along with Maureen, and key employee Scott Boyer, Tom returned to eastern Iowa. Throughout the years, they took on franchises in several cities in eastern Iowa and the Wichita, Kansas area, including the construction of a 20,000 square-foot, multi-tenant office building in 1998 in Waterloo.
With hard work, success followed and the Porth’s received 30 awards in ten years for annual sales and Tom is personally on record for working 15,619 uninterrupted days with the Village Inn brand. In 2016, Tom was nominated as the Franchise Partner of the Year by the Village Inn corporation, which stated: “This Franchise Partner has created an organization and team that are motivated to provide the best service and experience possible for Village Inn’s guests. While we may be able to see the effects of their efforts reflected in sales increases and guest count retention, you need only step in to one of his nine locations to really feel the positive impact of a culture built on accountability, integrity, respect and, above all, passion to serve.”
Over time, Tom built a sterling reputation and forty-three years later, he and Maureen sold their nine Village Inn franchise locations to Scott and Lisa Boyer earlier this year. “Tom’s level of integrity is unmatched in today’s business world. We partnered on many construction projects with just a handshake agreement and most without any construction budget predetermined,” said Dave Peters.
Tom keeps his experience starting out at Village Inn close in his heart. Scott Boyer recalls that Tom would often say “take care of the people who take care of you” and “remember who brought you to the dance”. Tom’s generosity and loyalty to his employees is reflected in a profit-sharing program called “Village Green”.
Over the years, Tom and Maureen have been steady contributors to the Cedar Valley through organizations such as the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, The University of Northern Iowa, and Columbus High School. Tom’s service also includes leadership to the Black Hawk County YMCA Board, Waterloo Chamber of Commerce Board, Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa Board, St. Edward’s Church, and the University of Northern Iowa.
Despite his many community contributions and connections, recognition has never been Tom’s motivation. In his own words, his preferred legacy is “to be a good dad.” He added, “I want to be someone that when I leave this community, I feel like I left it better than when I arrived and that a little part of that betterment has been because of what Maureen and I have been able to do here over the course of the last 30-some years. And that would be good enough.”
Tom lives with his wife Maureen and has two children, Madison and Robbie.