Geneseo Brewing Co. | Maple City Keeps On Growing!
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Maple City Keeps On Growing!

December 14, 2014 10:13 am  • 

Geneseo has long been a haven for specialty shops that draw out-of-towners.

 Now, new businesses are cropping up in the Henry County, Ill., community of 6,500.

Rhoni Perrine, executive director of the Geneseo Chamber of Commerce, said two breweries are opening next year to join several new specialty shops and a new Goodwill Store.

The burst of economic activity has created optimism for continued growth.

In conversation, Tim Long, Geneseo’s interim city administrator, mentions a new Casey’s General Store near Interstate 80, a new Save-A-Lot grocery store under construction at the site of the former Deck motel, and an Amtrak train depot to be built next year.

“The Amtrak track should be rolling by 2016,” he said. “The Amtrak station is as big a deal as our ongoing efforts for reliable electrical power.”

He was referring to wind turbines that were built in 2009. A $7 million turbine project was completed with two 1.5 megawatt wind turbines that generate 15 percent of the energy consumed by the city. The turbines are located on 24 acres of interstate frontage.

Long said the train station in the downtown business district will encourage economic development and tourism. It will be one of several stops along the route between Chicago and Moline.

The two new breweries also expect to draw people from the Quad-Cities.

“I have done a lot of working on this for two years and tweaking it for about a year,” said Steve Fiers, owner of Lionstone Brewery & Gastropub, which will open next year.

“I expect to open in May, June. Licensing takes about six months. I have been a home brewer for 10 years. I have a young man who will be the head brewer. We have taken recipes people have commented that they like, and put them into recipes we plan on serving once we open.”

His place will be located in a newer strip mall on the south end of the city, near a Culver’s restaurant. It was occupied for many years by Klavohn’s  Furniture.

“That portion of the building was vacant for seven years,” he said. “We will take 5,000 square feet for the brewery and gastropub. We plan to have a menu that you cannot get anywhere in the Quad-Cities.”

He also plans to build a beer garden connected to the building.

Jared Minnaert said he also will open a brewery, Geneseo Brewing Co., in 2015.

His wife, Andrea Minnaert, owns Raelyn’s Pub & Eatery downtown. He plans to sell the microbrewery beer at that restaurant and at his new brew pub at 102 S. State St.

“We have had a ton of support,” he said. “This is all exciting for the town. There definitely is some activity in town, new businesses, gift shops. People seem to coming into town to shop. It is good for everybody.”

Deb Wirthy opened Wirthy Treasures, also downtown, earlier this year.

“We are getting a lot of traffic from the Quad-Cities,” she said. “I am a local retailer for two international chains not sold anywhere else locally, Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint and American Paint Co., a chalk-clay-based paint.

“I also have classes to train people and I have local artisans that paint and do upcycling of furniture. There also are local artisans that make products, like jewelry and soaps. And they sell them here. It is all about re-purposing.”

She said her store on East Exchange Street is among several that are turning things around for Geneseo.

“There are a lot of new small businesses that have opened on East Exchange Street,” Wirth said. “Geneseo is coming back to life again. Because of that, there are a lot of businesses popping up.

“We are right across the street from where the new depot will be.”

Perrine said other new shops include Picture Perfect Plus, My Moon Creations and Urban Farmhouse. Another retail gift shop, Designs on the Boulevard, has been open for three years. Recently, the attic was remodeled and now is used for additional retail space.

Geneseo also has its first full Goodwill Store, located in the former Country Market grocery store at 465 E. Highway 6.

“We just had a dropoff location, and now we will have a full retail store,” said Mindy Kayser, vice president of marketing of the Goodwill of the Heartland, Iowa City.

“Dropoff locations is how we test the market, depending on how receptive the market will be and it went very well.”

The new store opened Friday.

Sarah Richards, the new store manager, said it has 8,000 square feet. It employs four managers, and seven full-time and one part-time employee. She said the building used to be a Blockbuster store.

“We have had nothing but positive outpouring in town,” she said.

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