In the early 2000s, it might have been hard to imagine the vacant gas station at Davenport's 4th and Iowa streets as the source of gourmet coffee for a bustling clientele of downtown workers and residents.
Especially the "residents" part.
But the Redband Coffee Co. has been so successful in the once-deserted location that its owners are expanding, constructing an addition to the back that will nearly double its footprint by June.
"How quickly we forget how far we have come," Kyle Carter, executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership, said of the expansion in particular and downtown revitalization in general.
While various developers began converting vacant buildings in the Warehouse District into loft apartments, the Downtown Partnership eyed the triangle-shaped corner behind the chain link fence. In addition to being the site of the gas station, it contained a former W.G. Block mixing plant and a railroad embankment overgrown with trees and brush.
W.G. Block donated the property, and the Downtown Partnership removed the old industrial building and cleared and landscaped the embankment, an undertaking that cost about $600,000.
"Hundred of thousands of dollars have been spent on that property," Carter said.
When the gasoline station's first reuse as a drop-off/pickup cleaners closed after about three years, Rick Cook — who had opened a Redband Coffee in the former Ma's Diner on 13th and Brady streets, Davenport, in 2007 — became convinced that the spot would be good for a second shop.
Business was steady from the beginning, largely because of the drive-through that made purchasing easy, Cook said.
With time, he added an egg sandwich (made with telera bread, smoked gouda and two eggs with optional sausage or chorizo) and scones.
The latter were proposed by Kathy Barzgari, Cook's life and business partner, and they have proved to be a hit.
"Scones can be dry," Cook said. "Kathy started adding cream and butter. That made them more moist. That made people like them a lot more. Then we added frosting. Now we have all these different flavors."
The store sells 50 to 100 scones a day, all made on-site from scratch, Chelsea Landman, one of the bakers, said. "They sell like you wouldn't believe."
Customers are "all across the board," she said. "Even people who don't drink coffee come in for food."
The original building is about 700 square feet and the addition will be just under 500, Cook said.
No, there won't be any in-store seating. The new space will accommodate more cooking equipment so food can be prepared and delivered faster, as well as a coffee roaster so that customers can watch — and smell — as Cook does his work.
He'll also be adding a washer and dryer and a reverse osmosis machine to purify water for his coffee.
In addition, the extra space will allow customers and staff more room to spread out so that they are not literally bumping into each other.
The addition will be in keeping with the architectural style of the gas station, sided in matching bricks being specially made in Sioux City, Iowa.
All told, including equipment, the addition will be about a $200,000 investment, Cook said.