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great american river road trip

Hit the Road With Renee: Independents Stand Together in Iowa

After wrapping up Day 1 of the Great American River Road Trip in Minnesota, the Independent We Stand team and I hopped in the SUV to embark on our next leg of the road trip, visiting independent businesses along the Mississippi River.

We checked in to The Charmant, a 67-room luxury boutique hotel in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin. The building is a renovated candy factory, which was built in 1898 and was in operation as a manufacturing facility for 35 years. The hotel pays homage to this history through fine amenities and interior design and through its name—Charmant was a premium line of chocolates produced by the resident candy company.

The team grabbed dinner at Kate’s Pizza Amore, where we all shared a delicious margherita pizza. We then went back to the hotel and talked about our first day before heading to bed to rest up for the second day of the Great American River Road Trip.

Day 2: Davenport, Iowa

We had another busy day ahead of us as we traveled to Davenport, Iowa. Davenport is one of five locales that makes up the Quad Cities, a region in northwest Illinois and southeastern Iowa. We were excited to visit the many independent businesses that make the city unique and vibrant.

To start Day 2, we grabbed breakfast at Simply Coffeehouse & Eatery in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Here we were able to enjoy homemade breakfast sandwiches and hot coffee before continuing our drive to Davenport.

Once we arrived in Davenport, we popped into Zeke’s Island Cafe to sample its expansive menu. The restaurant opened in 2014 and brings a unique island cuisine to locals, featuring meals that combine Caribbean, Jamaica, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands influences, as well as decor that transports a diner to the tropics, even for just a brief moment.

Our first stop in Davenport was next door to Zeke’s Island Cafe at The Silver Key Tattoos shop. We met Molly Keim, owner and manager of the shop, who shared her thoughts on supporting independent businesses. She shared stories of opening the shop and the warm welcome the business received from other independents, even another tattoo shop. According to Keim, she moved to Davenport from York, Pennsylvania, with her husband, who is one of the tattoo artists at the shop. For them, it was the right move.

great american river road tripAfter Bill Brunelle, co-founder of Independent We Stand, contemplated getting a ‘Shop Local’ tattoo, he settled on a temporary tattoo with help from one of the shop’s talented tattoo artists.

Our next visit was with Tony Fuhs, owner of The Brewed Book, a used bookstore and cafe. The business opened in December of 2017, and it has built a reputation among locals as a business that provides a unique retail experience to customers.

While we were at The Brewed Book, we also had the opportunity to meet Scott Tunnicliff, director of the Hilltop Campus Village, a Main Street Iowa Urban commercial district. The organization is re-establishing itself as a vibrant area offering culture, education, shopping, dining and entertainment options. Tunnicliff shared his thoughts on why investing in Main Streets is so important.

“Too often, communities will sacrifice their store’s existing interior in order to go to a brand new shiny factory or neighborhood,” Tunnicliff says. “When you’ve got infrastructure and historic districts that are crying for attention, it just makes a better business to try and invest in the community with that existing structure.”

great american river road tripAfter Brunelle sat down for a quick interview with WQAD news to discuss the importance of The Great American River Road Trip, the team made its way to Abernathy’s, a clothing and accessories shop featuring unique, one-of-a-kind pieces, most of which are up-cycled, repurposed and eclectic. The store specializes in vintage clothing and accessories, handmade jewelry and statement pieces, home decor, and fragrances. We spoke to co-founder Red Perreze about what motivates her as an independent business owner.

“Being able to have that chance to connect with the customer, find out what they want and create it from scratch is very rewarding for me,” Perreze says.

great american river road tripAnother business owner we were able to connect with as part of the Great American River Road Trip was Mitch Dettman of Davenport’s The Full Kit, a men’s clothing shop that has two locations in Iowa, including its newest shop in Davenport.

“Local businesses put that certain twist and flavor unique to that community into everything they do, whereas national brands come and all have the same thing when you walk in the door,” Dettman says. “A local business gives that local touch you might not find elsewhere.”

To wrap up the day in Davenport, we then spoke with Kyle Carter, director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership. The partnership, which is a division of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, is a nonprofit organization focused on the strategic growth and beautification of historic downtown Davenport. Carter spoke about his work with businesses like Abernathy’s and The Full Kit, and how supporting them brings new life to the historic downtown.

Our last stop of Day 2 of the Great American River Road Trip was at Me & Billy Kitchen and Bar, where we got to talk with owner Billy Collins and his daughter, Fran Maus. They shared their favorite aspects of working in a family business, and what they enjoyed about the city of Davenport.

After wrapping up with Collins and Maus, we stayed at Me & Billy Kitchen and Bar to enjoy a good meal to celebrate the end of Day 2. We turned in for the night at The Current before we began the next leg of our journey visiting independent businesses along the Mississippi River.

Stay tuned to Hardware Retailing to read about our evening in Davenport, Iowa, and our day in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Remember to follow along on NRHA’s Instagram and Facebook page for frequent updates from the Great American River Road Trip!

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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