CEDAR RAPIDS — Heidi Eifferts has been an admirer of Cedar Rapids’ New Bohemia neighborhood for years. Now she’s a tenant.
“We had photographed outside the CSPS hall for years,” said professional photographer 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, was made at a press conference Thursday (2/2) morning.
“This is another example of the New Bohemia neighborhood returning with a vengeance,” said F. John Herbert, Legion Arts’ executive director.
“The momentum’s building for the downtown district and the New Bo district,” said Richard Marsceau, co-owner of the Brewed Awakenings coffeehouse, which is expanding to the CSPS building. “It just all fits together. There’s momentum everwhere along the river, I guess, and it’s good to be part of it.”
“It’s such an emerging art and entertainment district,” said Mary Ann Peters, owner of New Bo Books, the third business to take up residence in the historic building’s ground floor. “The things that are happening now and are in the plans give it a whole personality that’s unique.”
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 Floods of 2008.
“We’ve gone from being a pretty small arts organization and a tenants ourselves to a pretty small arts organization that owns the building, so we’ve 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. We’re 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 hasn’t 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.
“It’s maybe a model that hasn’t ever been tried before,” said Peters, who expects to hire up to two employees. “That way, there’s not going to be the high learning curve for me. My experience is in libraries and as a consumer of books but I’ve never sold them before.”
Both Peters and Marsceau expect the bookstore and Brewed Awakenings will be natural neighbors.
“It’s a great compliment to our business,” said Marsceau whose coffeeshop will remain in operation at its original location at 1271 First Ave. SE and its satellite location at St. Lukes Hospital . “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, “we’re going to have more of a traditional coffee bar,” Marsceau said. “We’ll take some of our best sandwich sellers from here, but we’re going to add some things.”
The new location will employ up to a dozen people.