CEDAR RAPIDS — Nicknamed the “Mayor of NewBo,” local entrepreneur Steve Shriver and business partners are expanding into Czech Village to launch a specialized outdoor store that taps into outdoor recreation.
SOKO Outfitters, at 41 16th Ave. SW, would sell specialty gear and apparel for hiking, rock climbing, kayaking and camping, and also rent and sell kayaks.
The anchor brand will be Patagonia, and the shop would employ about 20 people, according to Shriver and city documents.
“It will be one of the larger retail businesses to operate in downtown Cedar Rapids,” Shriver said. “Without an outdoor store in Cedar Rapids currently, we think we have a pretty good business plan.”
Dick’s Sporting Goods, 4601 First Ave. SE, operates near Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids, but SOKO would be more along the lines of a smaller niche operation like Active Endeavors in Iowa City or Fin and Feather, although without the hunting or fishing aspect, Shriver said.
The Cedar Rapids City Council on Tuesday backed a 10-year, 50 percent tax subsidy based on increased property value.
SOKO Outfitters would open Sept. 1, while the kayak sales and rental portion would launch this spring or summer, Shriver said.
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Investors, who also include Graig Cone, Ryan Sundermann, and Steve White, under the name C.W. Sundiver LLC, plan to invest $600,000 to renovate the 6,000-square-foot space, which used to house the Artisan’s Sanctuary. During the incentive period, the company will pay $146,100 in taxes and have $40,000 of that reimbursed.
Each of the owners has a background in outdoor recreation. Shriver, for example, is a rock climber, and Sundermann participates in adventure races.
The building’s interior will be completely gutted, but the brick facade would stay the same.
Plans call for redoing an external mural on the west face of the building, said Caleb Mason, a city economic development analyst. The project qualifies for incentives under the city’s core district reinvestment exemption, he said.
The store concept dovetails with the vision for the area.
The city’s greenway master plan calls for a 40-acre Czech Village Park just behind the shop. Meanwhile, city officials have set aside the bulk of the $200,000 for westside riverfront improvements in the fiscal 2019 budget for a kayak beach. The beach is a top priority of Cedar Rapids Parks Foundation, which is also raising money for the project.
Whether those plans come to fruition, the shop still is well situated with the Cedar River bike trail and Cedar River nearby and plans for hiking trails on Mount Trashmore, Shriver said. The store will not sell bikes, as the market already is well supplied, Shriver said.
“I think Czech Village is the future hot spot of Cedar Rapids,” Shriver said. “I’ve been integral to promoting NewBo. Czech Village is fresh and untapped.”
In other actions, the council:
l Approved a Johnson Avenue NW reconstruction project from First Avenue SW to Midway Drive NW valued at $6 million. The project would also include roundabouts at Jacolyn Drive NW and Wiley Boulevard NW, lane reduction, and water main and sanitary sewer replacement.
l Comments: (319) 339-3177; firstname.lastname@example.org