LeClaire’s quaint, small-town charm and breathtaking views of the Mississippi River were just a few of the things that caught Rodney and Kim Collier’s attention while driving through town over 20 years ago. That day, Kim instantly knew she wanted to open a home décor store in LeClaire, which she ran for about 20 years.
Rodney is originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, and Kim is from Clinton, Iowa. The two met in college at the University of Dubuque.
Rodney is now focused on the bigger picture – projects that create business opportunities for the people of LeClaire and surrounding areas. One such project is Root 67, which is located on Highway 67 running through LeClaire – otherwise known as Cody Road and the Great River Road National Scenic Byway.
“We named the shop ‘Root’ because we raised our family here and we’ve really rooted our family in LeClaire,” Rodney said. The original north side was built in the late 1800s. Additions were made in the mid-1900s and it was once a general store, hardware store and appliance store. But then movement stalled.
“It really had been underutilized or not open for 30 years,” Rodney said. “For a number of years, it was just full of appliances from the 70s and 80s. It was like time stopped. When the gentleman passed away, it was cleaned out. But then it was just empty for years.”
It eventually became an antique store. But when the owner passed it sat empty again for another five years, Rodney added.
“I engaged in communication with the new owner and said, ‘We’ve been here 20-some years and I don’t want to see it empty. Would you be interested in selling?’” Rodney said. “We came to an agreement where Kim and I purchased the building.”
Entrepreneurial Opportunities Abound
Demo day was in May 2022, followed by renovation of four commercial spaces. All four tenants had paperwork signed by the end of June, a reflection of local demand for retail space.
“We are one of the fastest growing towns in Iowa,” said Cindy Bruhn, LeClaire tourism manager. “In the last two censuses, we went from 2,800 to 3,700. And this last decade to 4,700 people.”
LeClaire is a town that embraces entrepreneurs and tourists. People often come to LeClaire to see Antique Archaeology - home of the famous American Pickers, and the Buffalo Bill Museum, or to take an excursion on the Riverboat Twilight. The tourists also love to shop.
Business is Booming at New Shops
Natasha Wahlig was one of four who jumped at the opportunity to own commercial space in Root 67. Natasha opened Cody Rose Floral, her first brick-and-mortar store that houses her floral business and retail in the front. Before Root 67, Natasha was strictly an independent, contractual florist working out of her house. Moving the business elsewhere allowed more living space for her husband and kids while giving Natasha a dedicated spot for work.
Business is booming. “Before, I wasn’t really advertising as a florist, I only did things [as a contractor] through ‘I Do Events,’” Natasha said. “I was a one-woman show. We came down here to Root 67 – it’s been amazing. The foot traffic is fantastic. I’m thrilled with how busy we’ve been.”
Natasha has mostly focused on weddings. Now she does many more floral deliveries during the week, which she attributes to her highly visible location. Business has more than doubled since making the move to Root 67.
“It’s huge,” Natasha said. “This building sat empty for four to six years and was such an eye sore before. And now to see all four businesses thriving – it’s amazing.”
Lifelong dreams become reality
Root 67 also gave Livi Soseman the chance to make her lifelong dream a reality. Livi opened Nest Modern Goods, a retail space full of specialty food items, a variety of cheeses, functional kitchen items, glassware, mixers for drinks, boutique style clothes, permanent jewelry and more.
“I wanted to bring something new and fresh to LeClaire that wasn’t currently offered,” Livi said. “This is my own version of Anthropologie.”
It’s a place where people can quickly grab a gift or unique item that’s “cool, modern and different,” Livi said. “The store is filled with everything I love.”
The camaraderie and foot traffic have helped Nest Modern Goods succeed. “Things are going way better than expected,” Livi added.
“[LeClaire is] exceptional,” said KC Cupp, who co-owns Buttercup Candles with his wife Jennifer in Root 67. “It’s such a great little community with a ton of tourists. The main focus of LeClaire is food, fun, entertainment and shopping. Root 67 adds to the culture of LeClaire.”
There are multiple Buttercupp Candles locations, but LeClaire is their highest grossing store, KC said. Buttercupp is also an experience – customers can make their own candles and lotions if they prefer.
People visiting LeClaire are realizing it’s more than just a great place to visit – it’s a terrific place to call home, Cindy added.
A Great Place to Call Home
“People come here because it’s a nice area,” Cindy said. “It’s very central. We’re close to Chicago, St. Louis, Des Moines and Omaha. There are large industries and big businesses close where people can work. It’s a 15-minute commute to work and still live in LeClaire, where people know their neighbors and have small town sports. People want that for their families and their kids. We have a lot of improvements going on. All those things make it an attractive place to live.”
Future improvements include new walking and biking trails, a new recreation center and Main Street beautification efforts. LeClaire also has plans to overhaul the Marina District and turn it into an entertainment area with a bandshell, splashpad and more activities, Cindy said.
“We get tons of compliments,” Cindy added. “The people are friendly and LeClaire is clean.”
Check out what Iowa has to offer.