Archive for Small business

Grace Engineered Products/Letter2Word – Business Expansion

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , , , on September 3, 2014 by Tory Brecht


5001 Tremont Ave. and 1515 E. Kimberly Road
Total Investment: $2.7 million
Total Public Investment:$30,000 IEDC High Quality Jobs Program
Jobs Created: 11-15 (Grace) 3-5 (Letter2Word)
Status: Expansion in progress



Philip Allen is a serial entrepreneur who grew Grace Engineered Products Inc. from a virtual one-man operation into a global manufacturer of electrical safety devices employing 25 here in Davenport. Now, he plans to not only expand that business and add up to 15 new employees, but is helping nurture a start-up called Letter2Word.

Grace is a worldwide leader in electrical safety products, especially the GracePort panel interface connectors, which allow users to either service an electrical cabinet without opening its panels or at least determine whether it is safe to open from the outside. Allen pioneered the application of Safeside voltage indicators into lock-out, tag-out procedures, which help improve worker safety while working on electrical equipment. Customers of this Davenport-based company include such giants as Ford Motor Co., Procter & Gamble and Kimberly Clark.

The company started in 1993, when Allen and some associates were working on a friction welder retrofit project at John Deere. Work was needed on a relatively dangerous machine with an interface in the front and an electrical panel with a 250 horsepower drive and a 400 amp main feed  inconveniently located at the rear. The only way to access the machine for maintenance was to open the doors, but the maintenance supervisor understood this caused a potential hazard.

“The supervisor insisted they keep the door closed,” said Allen. “The end result was the panel interface connector, which would become an industry standard.”

Now, the company sells all over the world.

“We just got an order for 40 units from Italy and another large order for Australia.” About 20 percent of the company’s product is exported, about half of it to Canada. This growth, both internationally and domestically, drove the decision to expand. Allen has purchased a building at 1515 E. Kimberly Road, which will house a mix of expanded Grace operations as well as the new and growing Letter2Word operations. The Iowa Economic Development Association board awarded the company $30,000 in direct financial assistance and tax benefits through its High Quality Jobs Program, due to the increase in employment that will result from the expansion.


Advanced manufacturing laser cutting machines allow Grace to make thousands of different customized products

Advanced manufacturing laser cutting machines allow Grace to make thousands of different customized products

Grace Engineered Product’s unique process – Allen holds several U.S. and international patents for thru-panel electrical safety devices – allow it to mass produce customized products.

“We can get a specific order in one day, even with a specialized logo, and have it out the door the following day in most cases,” Allen said.

The 15 or so new employees he hopes to add later this fall will come into a workplace that values employee engagement. It’s a pet-friendly office, and several dogs can be seen wandering around at any given time. There is a large, warmly decorated break room and the factory floor and inventory bay are bright, clean and neat. To qualify for the IEDC incentives, starting wages start at $17.47 an hour and include full health benefits.

Allen said he chose to expand in Davenport both because of convenience and because of its outstanding workforce.

“We have good, hardworking people who show up on time, do their jobs and don’t quit,” he said. “The city was also very responsive and helped us work with the state.”

Another reason space was getting tight was due to the growth of Letter2Word, a startup home and business design and decor company co-founded by Allen’s wife Jane, her friend Sally Dailey and Dailey’s daughter Shannon Evans. The company creates  hand-painted words and phrases that can be hung indoors or outdoors to share unique messages. The letters are created on the same precision cutting machines that Grace uses for its products, making the businesses perfect for co-existing.


Sally said the company has already secured several large accounts, and will need to add 3 to 5 new employees at the new location on Kimberly Avenue to meet the demand for product delivered this spring.

“We have just had such a great working relationship with Phil and his staff,” she said. “He calls it cross-pollination of  business and it really seems to work.”

Allen said he is an entrepreneur at heart who loves innovation, so stand by for more business ventures in Davenport going forward.


Terrostar/Medix Dental – New Business

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


300 Brady Street
Total Investment: $150,000-$200,000
Total Public Investment: Up to $30,000 (Downtown Davenport Partnership construction funds)
Private Funds Leveraged: $150,000-$200,000
Jobs Created: 5
Status: Targeted opening end of 2014


A very old building in the heart of downtown Davenport will soon be the home of two very modern companies.

Terrostar and Medix Dental – which do online marketing and IT and technology support for the dental industry, respectively – are moving into the former Schneff Jeweler s and First Trust and Savings Building at the corner of Third and Brady streets. Tom Terronez, who owns both companies, says he hopes to have the 20-plus member staff moved into the renovated third floor of the nearly century old building by the end of 2014.

“A lot of stuff is happening in downtown Davenport, and being a tech-based business, we wanted something that fits our personality,” he said. “We love the historic building and we love being close to the action going on. My staff is very young and they want to be near the restaurants, bars and other things going on.”

The companies are currently housed on a couple different floors in their Bettendorf building on Utica Ridge Road, and Terronez plans to add five new employees in the current year. Being out of room, and wanting to consolidate operations, are another reason for the move, he said.


There is quite a bit of work to do to convert the former administration offices of Palmer College of Chiropractic into a tech-savvy, open design workspace. Although the high ceilings and bright windows remain, pretty much everything else will be updated and renovated, Terronez said.

The building’s owner – TR Holdings – has plans to create second floor apartments and first floor retail and loft space – but there is not a firm construction timeline at this point, said a company spokesman. Work will also include some facade cleanup on the building that was erected in 1918.

Terronez said his project should fit in nicely with recently announced plans Eastern Iowa Community College’s new “urban campus” in the renovated bank buildings across 3rd Street. He hopes to bring in interns from both the college and from the Davenport School District’s Creative Arts Academy.

“The long-term vision is to have downtown Davenport be a tech and education corridor,” he said.


Artisan Grain Distillery – New Business

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , on August 11, 2014 by Tory Brecht

Doing-it-in-Davenport_Black 318 E. 2nd St. Total Investment: $500,000 Total Public Investment: $0 Private Funds Leveraged: $500,000 Jobs Created: 10 Status: Opening in September   Artisan Grain Distillery will be opening in this building in downtown Davenport soon

Downtown Davenport will be even more “spirited” soon, with micro-distillery Artisan Grain readying to open right next door to the already-thriving Great River Brewery. Opening the distillery is a dream come true for owner Allen Jarosz, an aviation industry retiree and successful businessman who also founded Davenport Tractor Inc., which sells replacement parts for antique tractors with a major focus on John Deere. The tractor business will continue to operate out of the back of the historic 8,600-square-foot building on 2nd Street, while the front of the building is in the midst of a transformation into a visitor-friendly distillery and tasting room/gift shop.


The open space near the brick wall in this photo soon will be home to 6 fermenters and a large copper still

“Distilling has been a love of mine, ever since attending distilling school in Kentucky,” said Jarosz. “I really decided to take the plunge and turn it into a business last January.” That’s a bit harder to do than one might think, thanks to extremely strict regulations put in place on the spirits industry by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB for short. Jarosz said he received tremendous help navigating local, state and federal permitting and licensing issues from Davenport aldermen Bill Boom, 3rd Ward and Jason Gordon, At-Large. He also got some tips and tactics from Mississippi River Distilling Company in LeClaire, which has been in business for several years already.

“Craft distillers don’t consider other distillers as competitors, rather as friends that may be called on for help when needed,” he said. “Those guys are really pioneers, not only in Iowa, but on the national level as a micro-distillery.”

Jarosz said one thing that makes Artisan Grain unique is an uncompromising adherence to keeping things local. All the grains used in the process will be grown on a 120-acre organic farm he owns in Milan.

“We will grow and mill the grain,  ferment, distill and age the spirits, for national distribution or local consumption,” he said.  “By growing our own organic or kosher grains we may control the quality, and selection of grains available in the manufacture of our product, and allows us to customize our product taste by growing grains that may not be in abundance to other distilleries. This whiskey will be made from grain grown here in the Quad-Cities and distilled and bottled here in Davenport.”

Artisan Grain takes an old-school approach to the manufacturing process

Artisan Grain takes an old-school approach to the manufacturing process

Because finer whiskeys need to be aged in wooden barrels – often for years – the initial product line from Artisan Grain will consist of moonshine, white whiskey, white rum and other “young” spirits. Longer-term, a full line of whiskeys and bourbons are planned. Jarosz is awaiting delivery on six 7-foot-tall fermenting tanks and a 24-foot-tall copper still with a price tag of $150,000 before production can get underway. He is targeting a Sept. 15 date for the start of manufacturing and hopes to have the first spirits ready to sip on Oct. 24.

“That is also the date of a new moon, so what better time to break out some moonshine?” he said.

Moonshine bottles are ready for filling

Moonshine bottles are ready for filling

The tasting room and gift shop should be open in January. Jarosz said deciding to locate in Davenport was pretty easy. “I’ve lived in the Quad-Cities for many years and I find Davenport to be very forward-thinking and progressive in terms of supporting business,” he said. “There is also always something going on and things to do.”

Oh So Sweet – New Business

Posted in Projects with tags , , , on April 17, 2014 by Tory Brecht


314 Main Street

Total Investment: $115,000
Total Public Investment: $20,000 – Davenport Small Business Loan Program
Private Funds Leveraged: $95,000
Jobs Created: 10
Status: Nearing Completion

 Exterior of Oh So Sweet on Main Street


Last summer, Tiphanie Cannon took her tremendous baking talents to the Freight House Farmers Market for the first time. As they gobbled up her delectable cupcakes, cookies and other treats, about every fourth or fifth customer begged her to open a storefront where they could get her goodies more often, all year-long.

This May, they will get their wish.

Cannon’s new bakery – Oh So Sweet – will occupy the last open commercial space in the recently renovated United Cigar Building. It was the increasing momentum of energy and re-development in downtown Davenport that helped Cannon pick the space on Main Street.

“Downtown is super cool,” she said. “I’m not a strip mall kind of girl. We’re going for an urban chic, big city vibe.”

This will be accomplished with splashy displays in the large windows lining the front of the building, as well as a variety of plush seating areas just inside the entrance. A gas fireplace, a super long counter and some other unusual touches will help make Oh So Sweet’s environment unique, Cannon said.

Tiphanie Cannon poses in front of the gas fireplace in the Oh So Sweet seating area.

More jobs will be coming downtown as well, with Cannon planning on hiring 9 employees to man the store. She’s covering all her business bases by offering walk-in baked goods, a line of special wedding cakes, and the ability to host events like bridal and baby showers and other parties.

“We’re going to be a multi-purpose bakery,” she said.

Cannon also praised the business climate in Davenport, noting that the project was assisted by a $20,000, interest-free small business loan. She also recently won $1,000 in the Quad Cities Fast Pitch entrepreneur contest for taking first prize in the Restaurant/Entertainment category.

“Everyone has been so supportive and helpful,” she said. “I’m really excited to get open.”

Abernathy’s (new business)

Posted in Projects with tags , , , on November 6, 2013 by Tory Brecht


314 E. 2nd Street

Total Investment: $25,900
Total Public Investment: $12,000 small business loan from City of Davenport
Private Funds Leveraged: $13,900
Status: Opening Nov. 9
Projected jobs created: 3

Abernathy's is a new vintage clothing store on 2nd Street

Downtown Davenport continues to be a destination spot for hip new business start-ups. Becca Clark and Nicole Adams – co-proprietors and first time business owners – are opening a vintage and hand-made clothing and jewelery store in a formerly vacant storefront on 2nd Street.

They describe their inventory as “unconventionally rustic apparel and accessories for the eclectic soul” and their store’s physical aesthetic matches that sense of style with cool dressing rooms made out of antique doors, unique art and quirky household items from many different decades.

Eclectic clothes and accessories, as well as decor, are featured at Abernathy's

Clark and Adams both have extensive experience in retail management, having been managers at the former 4 Miles 2 Memphis independent clothing store in LeClaire, which recently moved to Chicago. The pair decided to strike out on on their own rather than follow their boss to the Windy City, and chose downtown Davenport because of the growth and potential they see there.

“Our business and demographic market are blossoming at the same time downtown Davenport is blossoming, especially with all the people moving in down here,” said Clark. “We think of this as a lifestyle shop. A place for everything that’s eclectic and interesting.”

The brick building dates to the turn of the 20th century, and originally was a medical clinic. It most recently housed a Vera French clinic, but has been empty for several years. Abernathy’s has around 2,000 square feet of space, including a studio where Clark and Adams enhance clothes and create jewelry.

The grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 9, when the store will be open from 11 a.m. to 7  p.m. The store will have regular evening hours to attract downtown residents returning home from work. There will be an open house with food from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. during the grand opening.


Dot Com – Hip Hop & Urban Accessories (new business)

Posted in Projects with tags , , , on April 22, 2013 by Tory Brecht


1432 W. Locust Street – Suite 8

Total Investment: $15,000
Total Public Investment: $5,000 small business loan from City of Davenport
Private Funds Leveraged: $10,000
Status: Opening soon
Projected jobs created: 3

Exterior of Dot Com Hip Hop and Urban Accessories on West Locust Street.

Not every new project featured on Doing It in Davenport is a multi-million dollar investment. But small entrepreneurs with great ideas and big dreams are excellent cumulative job creators and help tremendously with urban infill. Such is the case with Grace Madison’s new specialty store, Dot Com – Hip Hop & Urban Accessories, on W. Locust Street.

Madison, a recent college graduate with a background in retail, came up with the idea after realizing that she often had to visit up to five different large stores to find the trendy accessories she wanted to accompany her outfits. She also noticed a lack of small clothing/accessory retail on the west side of Davenport, where she chose to locate her store.

Owner Grace Madison's logo asks people to "swag themselves"

“There’s nothing like this in the Quad-Cities and there’s nothing like this on the west end,” she said. “I think the location is going to make the store really successful.” Madison is investing $5,000 of her own money, an additional $5,000 from a private investor and a $5,000 small business loan to get her business – which will employ two clerks and herself as manager – off the ground. The business is located in a small strip mall in a suite that sat vacant more than one year.

So what differentiates “hip hop & urban accessories” from regular accessories? “They’ve got a little flash to them, a little extra colorful items, up with the latest trends and styles,” Madison said. As the tagline under her business name says: “Swag Yourself.”

Accessories sold will include all kinds of items for men and women, ranging from shoes, hats and belts to watches and jewelery. If the business takes off, Madison said, she may add a line of clothing as well. This would allow her to add a couple more jobs.

Hats, belts, shoes and costume jewelery are all offered.

Dot Com – Hip Hop & Urban Accessories will hold a grand opening at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 29.

The Ruby Slipper – New Business

Posted in Projects with tags , , on February 28, 2013 by Tory Brecht


Total Investment: $100,000
Davenport Small Business Loan: $20,000
Private Funds Leveraged: $80,000
312 Main Street
Status: Complete
Projected jobs created: 5

The Ruby Slipper clothing boutique was one of the first new businesses to go into the 300 block of Main Street.

A passion for downtown Davenport and its architecture inspired Christine Reyhons to locate her upscale shoe and clothing boutique in a long-vacant building in the 300 block of Main Street in the city’s urban core.

The start-up business has seen a steady stream of customers, despite being on a block that currently has little other retail. (We hope to help change that soon!)

Originally constructed in 1916, the building housing The Ruby Slipper is one of the few in downtown Davenport to employ architectural terra cotta. It originally housed a series of small shops, including a cigar store, shoe shop, optical shop and candy store.

Based on The Ruby Slipper’s success, we think the remaining spaces in this beautiful old building would be ideal locations for the return of small shops, especially as downtown population continues to expand.