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Small shops at Rust Belt in East Moline are adjusting, doing better after COVID-19 shutdown
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Small shops at Rust Belt in East Moline are adjusting, doing better after COVID-19 shutdown

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Andrew Dasso, the owner of Streamline Architects & Artisans, is so into the Rust Belt buildings, he opted to go all in and move his business there.

He also created the Iron + Grain Coffee House, which opened in November. His wife, Marguerite Dasso, co-owns Jennie’s Boxcar, a restaurant that’s part of the Rust Belt complex in East Moline.

He doesn’t deny that the COVID-19 crisis has adversely affected the Rust Belt music venue, and the nearby businesses as well. Even his architecture business.

“Right away it postponed five to six projects that were really good size,” he said. “It hit us quickly. We have adjusted since then.”

So far, that seems to be the key word at The Rust Belt— adjust.

Three employees furloughed at Streamline have returned.

The coffee shop seems to be on the rebound, too.  "We closed for two weeks and opened back up but we had drive-through,” Dasso said. “We introduced a lunch menu to get more visitors down here.”

But none of it was easy.

“For a long time it was really hard to do anything because my truck was the only truck in the parking lot,” said Dasso. “Everybody else worked from home.”

With the Rust Belt, the music venue shut down, it created a dilemma for all the businesses there.

“The theory down here is a lot of our businesses were banking on the fact that we were going to have big concerts and lots of people here,”  Dasso said. “Without the concerts, we are all trying to find ways to make it work without it.”

Most have.

Now, there is steady work for Streamline. The coffee shop’s business is improving. And with the hair salon, Revival Mane, opening back up just over a week ago, the parking lot can have about 15 cars in it any afternoon.

There’s also JW Wedding Photography, which has made some major adjustments, and The Foundation Moline, formerly Quad-City Crossfit. The latter business could not be reached for this story.

JW Wedding Photography.

Essentially, that part of the business was shut down mid-March, Stephenie Willcox, the owner of JW Wedding Photography, said. But she adjusted and has started doing virtual tours of businesses. “We adjusted out of necessity,” she said about shifting into the virtual tour idea she had already. Her business opened in December of 2019, doing Christmas studio shots. The studio is open again, and she and the staff are doing creative head shots for businesses and interactive kids sessions. 

Jennie’s Boxcar

With the reoopening of the patio area two weekends ago, things are picking up at the restaurant, co-owned by Marguerite Dasso and her sister, Crystal Reickard.  “During the week, it’s been slow," she said. "Even before this (the regulations allowing only to-go orders until two Fridays ago), we are a new restaurant.”

Being allowed to serve on the patio area has made a huge difference. “Last week was nice in that we actually had Friday sales on a Friday,” she said.

She encourages people to make reservations. She also is pleased that they can now serve margaritas to go, via a new law that was just enacted.

The restaurant can serve 100 inside. Patio furniture may be added soon, and picnic tables for outdoor eating are on the way.

It’s definitely been a challenging first year. “We were just figuring it out and then we shut down for six or eight weeks. When we open back up, it’s different; we have never had a patio before.”

Revival Mane

With salons opening back up May 29, Revival Mane has truly been reborn. “It’s going great,” said manager Kate Anderson. “We are fully booked until July.”

It’s going so well for the staff of 10 stylists and one barber, the plan is to open another salon in Davenport.

Midwest Ale Works

At one time the large bar/restaurant only employed its salaried help, things were so slow. It may be the business most affected by the music venue not being open. “When the Rust Belt was open, we were definitely getting a lot of foot traffic through here from their shows,” said Glenn Cole, manager. Things slowed down immensely with the Rust Belt shut down. But things are looking up. “Over the weekend was great,” he said. “Now that we have the full staff back and the patio, we are doing way more to-go sales and it’s definitely better for us and our staff.”

Iron+Grain Coffee House.

Opening up a small patio out front has helped greatly recently, manager Kim Tapia said. The pause for the business helped it in that it made some adjustments, she said, like adding a lunch menu.

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Good acts were coming with new booking manager, Kyle Peters of the Daiquiri Factory. “And he had just taken that over in February,” Tennant said. “But again we had a full calendar, Smashing Pumpkins, Upchurch and a few different ends of the genre spectrum. They were booked for (the spring)..”

Upchurch is being rescheduled, Tennant said, and Smashing Pumpkins is scheduled for Oct. 22.

He still greatly believes in his Rust Belt concept.

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