Archive for Joe Wonio

L&D15 – New Business

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , on September 29, 2014 by Tory Brecht


520 W. 2nd Street

Status: November Opening
Job Created: TBD


Exterior of L&D 15


Since moving from Brooklyn to Davenport a little more than a year ago, David Balluff and Lopeti Etu have searched long and hard to find the perfect space for their eclectic hand-made clothing and hat (and other stuff) store.

A brief residency in cramped quarters at Bucktown came to an end awhile ago, and the pair have been busy fulfilling mail order requests in their apartment since. But they finally found what they were looking for in The Market building on W. 2nd Street.

“It’s a great location for us, with gigantic windows and close to the Farmers’ Market, the Figge, the bike trail and other things going on down here,” said Balluff, who manufactures organic cotton and bamboo silkscreen shirts, dresses, sarongs, onsies, tank tops and other fine products under the name General Assembly.

His partner, Lopeti Etu, creates hand-blocked hats of all sorts, under the brand Lopeti Etu Millinery.

Both of their complete lines of products, as well as those of other local and far-flung original designers, will be housed at the new L&D 15 limited edition clothing, accessories and housewares shop.

Balluff said the fact the building was known as the New York Hat Company in the 1910s, made it seem like the perfect home for he and Lopeti’s vision.

“We’re bringing back not only hat manufacturing, but we were recently in New York ourselves,” he said.

Brand new windows help spruce up L&D 15

Brand new windows help spruce up L&D 15

Etu and Balluff plan to reach out to artists and designers both locally and internationally, including open calls for artists/makers and other creatives to present new products. That will happen closer to the studio’s opening.

“We’re trying to build something that gives back to the community,” Balluff said. “Our target market isn’t young or old, rich or poor. It’s people who appreciate things made by hand.”

He calls this “retail 2.0” – meaning L&D 15 won’t be just a place to shop, but a living workshop and community gathering space.

Part of their interior work that includes renovating floors and painting. They are using lumber from Davenport Public Works’ urban wood utilization program. They plan to open sometime in November.




The Reform Building/The Market – New Business Re-development

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , on September 3, 2013 by Tory Brecht


526 W. 2nd Street and 522-524 W. 2nd Street

Total Investment: $240,000
Status: Targeted fall opening
Job Created: 3-5

The former German language newspaper The Reform called this building home from 1892 to 1943. It is being renovated as a new antique store.The Market building in the 500 block of W. 2nd Street will become an antique mall.

Two more vacant buildings in Davenport’s urban core are getting facelifts and new business/residential tenants. An encouraging sign is these two historic buildings – both of which date to before the turn-of-the-20th Century – are on the near-west side of downtown, an area only a handful of developers have invested in recently.

The intrepid developer is Joe Wonio, who is also a property associate of Financial District Properties, the company adding apartments to the Union Arcade and Wells Fargo buildings downtown. This project is independent of Financial District Properties, however.

“I was looking for a building to both live in and lease for business as my first project, and Kyle Carter of the Downtown Partnership called me and told me Chenhall’s was for sale,” Wonio said, referring to the staffing company that was the last tenant of The Reform building at 526 W. 2nd Street. “I like the neighborhood, it’s a lively area close to the ballpark, and I can walk to work.”

Wonio is converting the second floor of The Reform building into his personal apartment. The first floor will be home to Company 38 Antiques, owned and operated by Lorie Charles, who already runs a successful antique business in Eldridge. Charles has also helped Wonio line up tenants for The Market building next door, which will become an antique mall. Previously it was home to a thrift shop and a barbershop, but has been empty for several years. Both businesses are expected to employ up to five, Wonio said.

“I’ve been wanting to be in downtown Davenport for years,” said Charles, who has been in the antique business for 15 years. “For my type of business, we need to be real close to the center of downtown, but not right in it. This is perfect.”

Lorie Charles, owner of Company 38 Antiques, is already collecting merchandise in her new space.

Lorie Charles, owner of Company 38 Antiques, is already collecting merchandise in her new space.

The building at 526 W. 2nd is on the National Register of Historic places, built in 1892 as the home of the German language Newspaper The Iowa Reform. The newspaper peaked in circulation in 1912, serving the local tri-city Germans, with 4,000 subscribers. During World War I, most Iowa German papers ceased publication because of anti-German sentiment, but The Reform continued by complying with a government requirement that each issue be translated into English and filed with federal censors. By 1938, The Reform was the sole surviving German paper in Iowa with a circulation of 3,240. It folded in 1943 due to anti-German sentiment associated with World War II.

Wonio said he’s excited to be bringing new development to the west side of downtown. He thinks the recent residential boom a bit further east is going to continue spreading, and will boost retail, commercial and business development in the central city.

“One successful project builds on another,” he said. “It’s kind of a domino effect.”