Heidi Eifferts started coming to Cedar Rapids' New Bohemia neighborhood about four years ago in search of eye-catching photographic backgrounds.
"We had photographed outside the CSPS hall for years," said Eifferts. "It was just one of our favorite locations because of the old buildings, the textures."
Eifferts and her husband Troy Eifferts now work there full-time: their StudioU Photography is one of three businesses moving into ground-floor space at CSPS Hall, 1103 Third St. SE. A formal announcement of the businesses' agreement with Legion Arts, the non-profit owner of CSPS, will be made at a press conference this morning.
"The momentumís building for the downtown district and the New Bo district," said Richard Marsceau, co-owner of the Brewed Awakenings coffeehouse. "It just all fits together. Thereís momentum everywhere along the river, I guess, and itís good to be part of it."
"Itís such an emerging art and entertainment district," said Mary Ann Peters, owner of New Bo Books. "The things that are happening now and are in the plans give it a whole personality thatís unique."
ďThis is another example of the New Bohemia neighborhood returning with a vengeance," said F. John Herbert, Legion Arts' executive director.
Revenue from the tenants' rent will help cover operating costs at CSPS, the subject of a 16-month, $8 million renovation and expansion after the June 2008 flood.
"Weíve gone from being a pretty small arts organization and a tenants ourselves to a pretty small arts organization that owns the building, so weíve gone to quite a bit more responsibility," Herbert said. "The retail spaces on the ground floor will be pretty critical parts of the funding for the building. Weíre pretty excited to have three such locally-grounded businesses."
Professional photographers since 2000, Eifferts and her husband moved to Iowa City from Omaha in 2008. They've worked strictly on location since, but decided it's time to open a studio. Eifferts said they've already begun shooting in their new digs, but hope to have a public opening around March 1.
Peters said the entertainment district anchored by CSPS Hall is a natural for her new business, which will carry a broad range of titles from children's books to the latest best sellers.
"I just saw that neighborhood as ideal for a small independent book store," she said. "There has been a void here. Except for used book stores, there hasnít been small bookstores (in Cedar Rapids) since Barnes and Noble opened."
Peters said her store will† have access to the inventory of Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City. Orders will be placed with Prairie Lights, and New Bo Books will be tied into its sales and records system.
"Itís maybe a model that hasnít ever been tried before," said Peters, who expects to hire up to two employees. "That way, thereís not going to be the high learning curve for me. My experience is in libraries and as a consumer of books, but Iíve never sold them before."
Both Peters and Marsceau expect the bookstore and Brewed Awakenings will be natural neighbors.
"Itís a great complement to our business," said Marsceau. "We look forward to that - we need to have that growing-village feel down there."
Brewed Awakenings already serves coffee, beer, wine, and light snacks in CSPS' second-floor performance space. Downstairs, "weíre going to have more of a traditional coffee bar," Marsceau said. "Weíll take some of our best sandwich sellers from here, but weíre going to add some things."Marsceau said Brewed Awakenings will remain in operation at its original location at 1271 First Ave. SE. The new location will employ up to a dozen.