MUSCATINE, Iowa — The Button Factory Restaurant has been sold and owners Tom and Ann Meeker have handed over the keys to another family with area ties.
Sisters Becky Bonnichsen of Letts, Iowa, and Jan Calvert of East Moline will operate the business with their family. They say their big family, most living in the area, will be a key to success as they come together on everything from office work to bartending.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us,” Bonnichsen said. “This beautiful restaurant is part of the vision for Muscatine, what Tom and Ann worked so hard for.”
The Meekers are Muscatine developers who helped establish the restaurant in 2005 with a board of local investors who wanted to bring fine dining to town. In December 2007, the Meekers took over actual operation of the restaurant at 215 W. Mississippi Drive they had worked so hard to restore.
Ann Meeker said she was ready for the challenge when she began hands-on work at the Button Factory, but she is also happy to hand over the reins to people who want to work there and can help the business blossom.
“We took it on because we couldn’t stand to see it close,” she said of the restaurant in the former factory where buttons were once produced. Ann Meeker, a Downtown Action Alliance board member, said she will focus on downtown development. Her next mission is to create a commercial promoting tourism in Muscatine.
The business is valued at more than $800,000, she said, and the sisters are leasing it for now. When Schmarje Tool Co. sold the building in 2004, Pearl Plaza LLC purchased it for $125,000.
“It would be a burden for someone to purchase the building up front and try to operate the business,” Ann Meeker said. “The restorations that have been made go way beyond $800,000.”
Bonnichsen said if you ask her, the building is “priceless.”
Bonnichsen and Calvert are familiar with the Button Factory. Jan and her husband, Guy Calvert, own and operate the horse-drawn carriages operated in conjunction with the restaurant. The Calverts, who raise horses, grew up in Muscatine and moved to Illinois after graduating from Muscatine High School in 1973.
Jan Calvert’s brother-in-law, Cecil Calvert, is the long-time manager of the business and will remain in that position.
“There has been a lot of thought put into this restaurant,” Jan said.
Bonnichsen said anytime she had out-of-town guests, she would bring them to the Button Factory. She grew up in the Muscatine area and lives in Letts with her husband, Tom Bonnichsen.
The new owners will keep the business much like it is now, but will add their own touches to the décor, menu, atmosphere and catering business.
“We’re opposites,” Calvert said of she and Bonnichsen. “She’s the smart one. I’m the crafty one. There will be some changes or additions, and people will have to wait and see what’s to come.”