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New meat market to fill void in Czech Village

Co-owners have deep roots in Cedar Rapids, with former Polehna's market

Village Meat Market co-owners Lou Thompson (left) and Hugh Lamont, both of Cedar Rapids, stand in the shop on Friday, Ma
Village Meat Market co-owners Lou Thompson (left) and Hugh Lamont, both of Cedar Rapids, stand in the shop on Friday, March 9, 2012, in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Even as numerous businesses reopened after the Floods of 2008, a void remained in Czech Village.

The iconic Polehna’s Meat Market won’t return, but touches of the popular shop can be found in a new meat market, set to open soon in the historic district in southwest Cedar Rapids.

Village Meat Market & Cafe, 92 16th Ave. SW, will feature jitrnice (a Czech sausage), wieners and other meats, similar to the former Polehna’s, along with its own menu items in the 32-seat cafe.

“We’re using old family recipes given to us by a local family,” co-owner Hugh Lamont said of the meat. “It’s not Polehna’s, but it’s definitely homemade.”

The former meat market, in Czech Village since the 1920s and known as Polehna’s since 1931, would have cost $300,000 to rebuild after flood ravaged the city’s core.

Modern smokers also would have been required to replace Polehna’s brick, wood-fired smokehouse that gave the meat its signature flavor, owner Mike Ferguson said after the flood.

Lamont, 44, is well-aware of the shoes the new meat market is expected to fill after a decade working at Polehna’s. At the same time, he and co-owner Lou Thompson wanted to bring something new to Czech Village.

The result is a hybrid where customers can pick up milk, eggs and other essentials along with old-variety meats and cheeses, and sit down for a meal or coffee in casual surroundings.

“We went eclectic and weird,” Thompson, 50, said of the decor, which includes antiques and art.

Many items reflect Thompson’s upbringing in Cedar Rapids, where her father owned Oettinger Music.

A restored upright bass, her father’s trombone, and a working 1913 Victor Talking Machine by Victrola, given to her by the family of the late Willis Daugherty, reflect that musical heritage.

Thompson envisions live music in a corner of the cafe and a DJ playing the old-fashioned Victrola on Saturdays.

The cafe’s menu is largely Thompson’s, influenced by years in the restaurant and casino industry on the Gulf Coast before Hurricane Katrina brought her back to Iowa.

Cajun food and jambalaya will share the menu alongside Czech cuisine, such as cabbage rolls, where Lamont brings his expertise from working at the nearby Red Frog and Blue Toad restaurants.

While no exact date is set, the two expect to launch sometime next week, ahead of the annual St. Joseph’s Day Parade, scheduled for March 24 in Czech Village.

Its location, next to the former Polehna’s, resulted from a musical chairs, of sorts, in the village.

Deb Christensen, owner of Art 2 M Broidery, sold the building that housed her business and an antiques store to Thompson and Lamont. She moved into part of the former Bozenka’s gift shop, 81 16th Ave. SW, with Nancy Schmuecker, owner of Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio, who moved from Kuncl Mall, 59 16th Ave. SW.

Polehna’s site, 96 16th Ave. SW, is now home to the aptly named Chop Shop Barber Shop, with the new Village Meat Market next door.

Former customers will recognize posters in the new market with pork, beef, veal and lamb cuts that survived the flood high on Polehna’s walls. Old-fashioned fans and light fixtures also evoke a feeling of nostalgia.“We were hoping that would come through,” Lamont said. “It’s new, it’s clean, but some of it is old school.”

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