Though small in size, Sweetiepie’s Chicken & Fish Fry hopes to play a large role in the resurgence of a flood-damaged neighborhood.
“We get to meet the community,” co-owner Carol Simmons said of the walk-in traffic expected at the new restaurant, 624 12th Ave. SE.
The limestone building and another across the street were saved from demolition after the 2008 floods by developer Charles Jones of Green Development LLC, who also owns the historic former Witwer Building in downtown Cedar Rapids.
At 900-square-feet, Sweetiepie’s will seat about 20 inside and another 15 outdoors, once tables and landscaping are in place.
Located next to one of the Oakhill Jackson Brickstones — two post-flood affordable housing complexes — and across the street from Metro High School, 1212 Seventh St. SE, the restaurant could attract apartment tenants and students.
With that in mind, co-owner Kacy Smith said plans call for feeding college students in return for providing tutoring for students in the neighborhood.
“Food is just one of the needs,” said Smith, who also owns the Tic Toc restaurant, 600 17th St. NE, “mind, body and soul.”
The restaurant takes its name from Simmons’s childhood nickname.
A newcomer to the restaurant business, the Georgia native, who now lives in Coralville, said she’s no stranger to the fried chicken, fish, okra, sweet potato fries and other Southern staples that Sweetiepie’s will offer. She had “a lot of cooks in the family,” Simmons recalled, noting that Sweetiepie’s potato salad is her grandmother’s recipe.
While most menu items are fried, she said the food will have a healthy bent, with low-sodium breading and no preservatives in all the made-from-scratch items. Oil used for the fries, fish and chicken doesn’t leave the food greasy, Smith said.
Sweetiepie’s will employ about 10 people.
According to historian Mark Stoffer Hunter, the two buildings were constructed by Best Oil Refining Co. of Cedar Rapids — one in 1928 and the other in 1932. Village Auto Repair Service, 629 12th Ave. SE, occupied the other site for many years.
The Sweetiepie’s building wasn’t a service station for long, being used at various times as an ice-cream parlor, barbecue restaurant and a dry cleaner.
Though the nearby St. Wenceslaus Church could drive even more traffic, the restaurant has no plans to be open on Sundays.
“We like to go to church, too,” Simmons said. “Time with your family is first.”
- By Cindy Hadish