DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - On a road trip from Brooklyn to the Midwest two years ago, Scott Cornwell and Susan Price made an impromptu stop in Dubuque.
“Within a half-hour on the road into Wisconsin, one of us said to the other, ‘We could just chuck it and leave New York,’” Price said.
Five months later, that’s what they did. Cornwell and Price, who have been together for 18 years, were drawn to Dubuque’s evolving culture, such as the music scene on lower Main Street.
Cornwell and Price debuted their new venue, The Smokestack, this month. The opening night brought about 200 people to what Cornwell and Price described as their “flexible urban venue” for performance and visual arts, the Telegraph Herald (https://bit.ly/1IJaLyd ) reported.
Not quite a bar, but not quite a restaurant either, The Smokestack will serve drinks and food while performances play. The couple hopes it will become a space for anybody to perform, whether it be musical acts, theater groups or other artists, Cornwell said.
“Our philosophy is, if you have an idea, come talk to us and let’s make it happen,” he said.
Cornwell and Price first found the building that now houses The Smokestack while still in New York. After meeting with the seller on Labor Day weekend in 2013, they decided on the location.
“It really was going to take a lot of work. (The seller) knew that and everybody knew that and we knew that,” Price said. “But we saw what it was like. We understood the possibility on the spot.”
Since November, Cornwell and Price have been renovating the building, which was originally built as a hotel in 1856 and converted throughout the years until it became a storage space for auto parts. Renovations included installing a sprinkler system, taking out the floor and sewer lines and putting in a new water main, Cornwell said.
“If it was here, it needed to be replaced, and what wasn’t here needed to be put in,” Price said.
Cornwell and Price said they expect the kitchen to open at the beginning of August, when they will start serving lunches and late-night food. The menu will be light, vegetarian-friendly and mostly foods that can be eaten out-of-hand. It will feature items such as spiced garbanzo beans, flatbread pizza and vegetable Rangoon.
In a couple of years, Cornwell and Price hope to open the second floor of the building and develop its rooftop space, they said.
Through the support and input they have gotten from the community and the city, Cornwell and Price think The Smokestack can contribute to the developing Dubuque arts and culture scenes, they said. The city is supporting the arts and encouraging people to open places like their venue, they said.
They hope their venue contributes to Dubuque’s lower central area - which they have nicknamed “Cee-Lo”- by expanding their relationships with other bars and restaurants in the area and increasing the city’s walkability factor, they said.
“It was synchronicity that we found this place and we have this vision for it,” Cornwell said. “It really falls in line with one aspect of the city’s vision for its own future.”
Information from: Telegraph Herald, https://www.thonline.com
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