LeCLAIRE – Work is well underway to transform a familiar and long-abandoned building on the downtown riverfront into a trendy retail space for four businesses. Long-time LeClaire residents and investors Rodney and Kimberly Collier have purchased the 127-year-old building at 423 N. Cody Road and are moving quickly to make eye-popping improvements to the site. […]
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LeCLAIRE – Work is well underway to transform a familiar and long-abandoned building on the downtown riverfront into a trendy retail space for four businesses.
Long-time LeClaire residents and investors Rodney and Kimberly Collier have purchased the 127-year-old building at 423 N. Cody Road and are moving quickly to make eye-popping improvements to the site. Over the years, the building has housed businesses offering general goods, appliances and hardware, and most recently, antiques.
The teal awning of the former River Bend Antiques is gone now, and the building’s red brick has been given several fresh coats of white paint in preparation for a totally new black-and-white look.
“Kim and I walked by that building every day during our walk along the river,” Mr. Collier said. “Nothing had been done to the building at all. The building was not for sale, but I called the owner and asked if he would consider selling. I didn’t want to see it empty for another seven to 10 years.”
With the sale completed a few weeks ago, the Colliers are working quickly to turn a building with years of neglect into four separate modern retail spaces. Each business will have its own sign and entrance from the sidewalk. Inside, the spaces will be separated by sliding barn doors. The couple also has cleared brush and debris that surrounded the property, revealing a park-like setting with a stunning view of the river.
A final name for the retail building is still to be determined, but it will contain “Root 67,” Mr. Collier said. The inspiration for root comes from the stump of a large tree on the south side of the building’s 1950 addition. “You can see all the roots,” Mr. Collier said. The 67 reference, of course, is U.S. Highway 67 – LeClaire’s main artery through downtown.
“Kim came up with Root 67,” he said.
Three of the four tenants have been identified:
- Cody Rose Flower Co., a full-service floral business offering unique experiences.
- Nest, whose owner, Olivia Soseman, describes it in a mission statement as a modern-day general store, charcuterie and bottle shop.
- Buttercupp Candles, owned by KC and Jennifer Cupp, which currently has space at Grasshoppers Gift Shop.
Mr. Collier said they are working toward an Oct. 1 opening for the retail spot, in time for the popular fall tourism season and holiday shopping. “It’s all falling into place,” he said.
Natasha Wahlig, owner of Cody Rose Flower Co., said she has loved LeClaire “ever since I drove through it as a kid.” Now a resident herself, she is excited for the future of the community and what it will mean for her business, which she describes as “not your typical flower shop.”
Cody Rose will offer floral services for all events, but will also offer “experiences” like renting a bouquet bar for visitors to choose their own blooms and vases, and birthday parties, where kids can pick out flowers, paint a vase, and enjoy cupcakes.
Ms. Wahlig said she looks forward to Phase II of the city’s streetscape program, which will extend pedestrian-friendly amenities to the north end of downtown. The project includes sidewalks, crosswalks and resurfacing of Highway 67. Phase I is underway on the current downtown streetscape, and construction on Phase II is planned for 2024, according to LeClaire Mayor Dennis Gerard.
The Colliers have applied to the city for a tax increment financing (TIF) designation for their new retail project. Mr. Collier said renovation of the building will bring value to the downtown in terms of both tourism and tax revenue to the city.
Mr. Gerard said the city “is currently reviewing incentive opportunities with the Colliers, including TIF and other options.”
Asked what the building’s redevelopment means after years of sitting unused, Mr. Gerard said, “We’re very excited to see something finally happening with this building.” He added in an email that the Colliers have a long history of investing in LeClaire (with Grasshoppers and other endeavors), so they have a great track record.”
That track record began in 1997 when the young couple, who met as students at the University of Dubuque, drove through downtown LeClaire on their way to visit Mrs. Collier’s father in Fulton, Illinois, and spotted an empty storefront for rent. She had long wanted to open up her own garden/gift shop.
“We looked in the window, looked around LeClaire, and said ‘This is it’,” Mr. Collier said.
They named the small shop Grasshoppers (Mr. Collier’s idea). The first couple of years were slow, they both acknowledge. Mr. Collier worked in medical device/equipment sales (which he still does) and Mrs. Collier worked full-time at the shop. The business tapped into her love for finding treasures at flea markets, and painting and repurposing them for sale.
“I would paint bumble bees and flowers on things. People would bring me pieces; I would paint chairs,” she said.
The couple’s first son, Parker, born in 1998, came to work with her. All the while, she looked across the street at the historic McCaffrey home at 208 N. Cody Road and thought it would make a great location for an expanded shop. In late 2001, they bought that building and opened a much larger Grasshoppers Gift Shop there a few months later. They welcomed two more sons, Cade in 2000 and Logan in 2002. Mr. Collier served a term on the LeClaire City Council in the early 2000s.
While the Colliers sold the Grasshoppers business several years ago to Monica Schons, they still own the building and live there. They’ve added 430 N. Cody Road, the historic Rambo home, to their list of properties. After renovations at that site, it houses THE Market: A Journey to Joy, which opened in March, offering goods from about 40 vendors.
Mrs. Collier’s passion for decorating is carried out in the two well-appointed guest homes they own and operate – Grasshoppers Guest House Too at 220 N. Cody Road, and Grasshoppers Guest House III at 228 N. 2nd St.
She calls Guest House Too “the comfy cozy cottage” and Guest House III “the hilltop haven.” Quilts, candles, florals and a soothing color palette throughout give guests the feeling that they’re walking into a home.
Under construction between Guest House Too and Grasshoppers Gift Shop is the Colliers’ new home, right in the middle of downtown. It’s just where they want to be.
“It’s really like a feeling here,” she said of living and working in LeClaire. “My mom was a lunch lady at Bridgeview, where the boys went to elementary school. You know the teachers; you know the police officers. People know you, they know your kids, especially having had the store for so many years.”
“This is a community, but this is family,” she said. “It’s rewarding. I feel that.”