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A trio of bars and restaurants new to the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City market are proven commodities as born and bred Quad Cities businesses. Both the Barrel House and Unimpaired Dry Bar have opened locations in the past year in the Corridor, a short trip east on Interstate 80 from their Quad Cities home. The new locations are the first step in their separate plans to franchise nationally. In addition, Foundry Food + Tap is considering even more regional growth after a successful six-month start up in Coralville. Barrel House celebrated a grand opening in Cedar Rapids in May – and ended the month by breaking ground on a 7,680-square foot building with GLD Commercial Real Estate in Coralville. The new development will house the emerging chain’s newest location with several other tenants across Coral Ridge Avenue from the new Foundry in Coralville. Unimpaired’s official ribbon cutting showcased that Cinco de Mayo can be celebrated without tequila in the Margaritas. The non-alcoholic alternative first opened in October 2021 – and the first school year proved so successful that the company has designs to open in other Big Ten Conference college party towns. Both Barrel House (established in 2011) and Unimpaired (started in September 2020) began in downtown Davenport. Foundry’s birth came in 2019 outside Bettendorf’s newly opened TBK Bank Sports Complex when owner Michael DeWitte broke from the Barrel House to start his latest business venture. “There’s kind of a trend to do that now,” Unimpaired co-founder Amber Haines said of local businesses operating in both the Quad Cities and Cedar Rapids/Iowa City. Ms. Haines also points to Symmetry Beauty Lounge as another recent Davenport-to-Iowa City export. Same for Top Shape Gym, which was profiled over the winter by the QCBJ, a sister publication to the Corridor Business Journal (CBJ). “There are a lot of people that are back and forth between the two communities because they are so close,” said Bailey Thompson, brand & social media director for Foundry operator Platinum Management QCA. “So, it makes sense as a business knowing if people love your place, they can always go there no matter if they’re in the Quad Cities or Iowa City/Cedar Rapids.” With an hour to 90 minutes drive Barrel House and Foundry also use that close proximity to help combat the biggest issue facing restaurants right now – staffing shortages. By sharing staff as needed in their chain, both also build their teams and future leaders, which only helps with retention efforts. “We really try to make it a family effort to enjoy working with each other and being able to visit different locations to meet new people, take on new roles, and learn new skills,” said Chris Posey, director of marketing & franchise sales for Barrel House. “We want to enable anybody within the Barrel House family that wants to grow and move up to have the ability to be successful with us ... and transfer to – or even take on – a franchise location someday.” The markets’ similarity is one reason Foundry expanded to the Corridor. However, there are subtle differences. “We have people say all the time – ‘What’s your best seller?’ – and the answer is it depends on what market you’re in,” Mr. Posey said. “If anybody said operating in multiple markets is not a challenge they’re lying. But the issues are the same as if you had two restaurants in the same town. You’re not managing one spot with one set of people. A lot of plates are spinning. “But there’s a lot of benefit, too, a lot of synergy between locations and trying out things that can work elsewhere, too.” That is especially true in downtown Iowa City, which is geared more toward the massive student population and college community at the University of Iowa.