Closed Cedar Rapids businesses prepare for flood, aftermath

Owners worry about lost profits, clientele

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CEDAR RAPIDS — In addition to bracing for potential flood damage to buildings, Cedar Rapids businesses are preparing for the strain of being closed for several days.

The Cedar River is forecast to crest today, but business owners in the NewBo, Czech Village and downtown areas have been preparing since Thursday.

They’ve cleared out merchandise and equipment and sandbagged doors and walls.

Owners of the Cobble Hill, Parlor City and Lion Bridge Brewing Company restaurants/bars said they’ll lose money on expired food if their restaurants are closed more than a few days.

Ana Escalante McClain, co-owner of Lion Bridge Brewing Company, said she and her husband, Quinton, always knew their building was at risk of flood damage when they opened in the Czech Village in 2014.

“We’re staying positive. We just see this as a setback,” she said. “We will come back. We’re excited to get started again. Things will be hard, but we have a lot of support from the staff and from the community.”

McClain said no matter what, they plan to stay in the Czech Village location because of its history and character.

“It’s not like a strip mall,” she said. “It’s in the heart of Cedar Rapids. It’s what makes Cedar Rapids different from another city. I hope when this is over, we can all sit down to come up with ways to keep this from happening again.”

But Scott Olson, a Cedar Rapids City Council member, a commercial Realtor and owner of the Higley Building in downtown Cedar Rapids, warned that while building owners are more prepared for flooding than in 2008, continued flooding may deter them from returning to a flood-prone location.

“There are some business that may say I’m not coming back,” Olson said. “(With) small businesses, there are lower profit margins, the cost of moving out, protecting the building and moving back in is hard for some businesses to do.”

Andy Schumacher, owner of Cobble Hill, said that though he intends to stay at his Second Street SE location, he’s worried that being closed for several days causes the restaurant to lose money those days but also after they reopen.

“It’s more ‘Is the community going to get back down there and start patronizing right away?’ ” Schumacher said. “We have a decent challenge getting residents down there as it is. In conjunction with (possible flood damage), it’s a little worrisome.”

Dave Owens, owner of Mad Modern furniture store, at 227 16th Ave. SE, agreed.

Owens said when he was moving the store’s midcentury modern furniture out of his storefront, he had to think about how long he could go without an income if the building has severe flood damage.

“It was the uncertainty of do I have a store to come back to? Would it be closed for months? Could I renovate and go without an income for that long?” Owens said.

Owens said that his profit margin is already slim, given the demand for midcentury modern furniture is not as high in Cedar Rapids, causing him to price products lower than they would sell in a larger market. Owens said his store had mostly been a destination for customers looking for his merchandise.

While Owens believes loyal customers will return, he thinks the flow of Cedar Rapids residents to the NewBo area that he saw before the flood will sputter out.

“It was a ghost town when I got into that building (in 2010),” he said. “It took me a long time to build up the clientele and get people to come to my location. Now I am concerned about the development that had been happening. There’s question marks as to whether things like that will move forward. Will people still have an interest in coming back, and will the development I’ve been waiting on ever happen?”

For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.

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