Dan Bush loves the Quad Cities so much — even though he went to college in Chicago, he came back to settle down, eventually starting five businesses and now a new glossy city guide called Look QC.

The full-color magazine (with no ads) is available for $10 at the current places Bush co-owns (under his company Bummer City, Inc.):

Armored Gardens in downtown Davenport includes 100 beers on tap.

“I wanted it to be very visual,” Bush said Wednesday, crediting commercial and fashion photographer Dasha Denger for the look of Look QC. She serves as creative director for the magazine, which is expected to come out once a year.

“She’s just an extremely talented photographer and really knows how to build content,” he said.

The first two-thirds of the publication has features on creators, entrepreneurs and artists in the area, and the rest (14 pages) is a city guide (riff on the Yellow Pages), with lists of recommended bars, restaurants, coffee and breakfast spots, live music venues, breweries, shopping and recreation.

The Bummer City “Yell-Oh Pages” features art of the former KONE test tower in Moline by Jon Burns.

“What prompted the idea was people came into Armored Gardens and they sit alone at the bar, they’re new in town, and they say, ‘What do I do here?’” Bush recalled. “I was just grabbing a legal pad – you like breweries, here are some breweries.

“I wanted to create a keepsake you could keep on the coffee table or wherever,” he said. “It’s a passion project, no ads. We’re not looking to make money on it. I wanted it to be aesthetically clean, a book you could keep for a while, versus something more disposable.”

“I think the Quad Cities is really getting somewhere; there’s a lot of excitement and I just wanted to build on that excitement,” Bush said. “I see the changes here, even over the last five years. It’s way different. I also think there’s a real opportunity with people getting priced out of bigger cities, people working remote, that want to afford a home and a yard – I think the Quad Cities is a unique place right now.”

Bush not only serves as the magazine editor, but wrote most of the articles.

“There are many more stories I could tell, but people in this issue, truly it’s not backed by big money. These are people with a dream, getting out there and they’re creating something special and I really wanted to highlight those people.”

Rock Island artist and designer Isaiah Williams is featured in the first issue (photos by Dasha Denger).

On Facebook, Bush described the first issue highlights:

Nora Loss of Red’s Threads, 5043 Competition Drive, Bettendorf, is featured in the debut issue (photo by Dasha Denger).

He chose the Moultons’ Renwick Mansion (built in 1877) for the eye-catching cover, which combines a modern backdrop and the historic building.

The Renwick Mansion, 901 Tremont Ave., Davenport, is featured on the cover (photo and design by Dasha Denger).

“We’re kind of an old town that’s re-finding itself, and I think that’s what makes it so exciting,” Bush said.

Background on the businessman

Bush is a 39-year-old Davenport native, Assumption High grad, and went to DePaul University in Chicago (graduating in 2006), before returning home.

The Quad Cities has been dubbed “a great place to raise a family,” but it was actually a dog whistle for, “this place sucks for young people,” he wrote in a Medium essay this week. “When I graduated from high school, I wanted to get as far away from here as possible and not come back.”

Dan Bush, a 39-year-old Davenport native, with his new baby at Armored Gardens, April 26, 2023 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“In ’06, there was not a lot going on for young people,” Bush said Wednesday of the QC. “The downtowns, outside of The District, were in pretty rough shape, and now downtown Davenport is completely different.”

The renovation and expansion of Hotel Blackhawk in 2010 was the catalyst for a lot of growth and investment downtown, Bush said. He personally put his money where his mouth was, after working for St. Ambrose admissions and then Jimmy John’s

“We’re hoping to keep people here and build a life here,” he said of new college grads.

Bummer City says on its website it’s not in the bar and restaurant business, but in the business of building your favorite hangout. Places that want to make you get out of the house and meet up with friends. They started with a plan to open just one bar, Analog Arcade Bar in downtown Davenport in 2015. They had so much fun with that a few more sounded like a good idea.

Analog Arcade Bar in Davenport was the first Bummer City business to open, in 2015.

Their second project was The Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel, a music venue and saloon, which opened in March 2017. It was later re-imagined into Devon’s Complaint Dept., an unpretentious small cocktail bar and dog-centric patio (Bummer City is not involved in the new iteration of the Raccoon Motel. at 315 E. 2nd St., Davenport). 

Renamed after one of its co-owners, Devon Wiese, the retro tavern opened in October 2019 and bills itself as a “throwback dive inspired by a simple time; a time when the lights were kept low, the beer kept cheap, and the establishment took on the name and personality of its proprietor.”

In October 2017, Bummer City opened Armored Gardens, a bar and fast casual restaurant that features 100 beers on draft, a sprawling outdoor patio, and American fare. In December 2018, they opened a second Analog location in Moline, which (unlike the Davenport location) is open to all ages until 9 p.m.

The outdoor patio at Armored Gardens, Davenport (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Analog’s Moline location is billed as the area’s most affordable arcade, offering over 50 arcade and pinball games on two floors. They also offer a full bar with 20 drafts and is one of the area’s best options for parties and events. The space is welcome to all ages each night until 9 p.m., when the venue becomes 21+. 

A fan of Moline

Bush really likes downtown Moline, which is why he opened the second Analog there.

“I like how the downtown is laid out, the condition of the buildings,” he said Wednesday. “Since the I-74 bridge opened, we’ve seen a huge boom in business. We’re actually adding a patio there in the next few weeks.”

After Lopiez leaves at the end of this month, Analog will make its pizza in house. The new patio there should be ready by early June.

Analog Arcade Bar in Moline gets decorated during the holiday season.

Bummer City plans to open a new Bummer Burger fast-food joint next door to Analog (in the building formerly a Jimmy John’s), but since Bush got higher-than-expected contractor bids, it’s not financially feasible to do right now.

“Things have changed so much on that front since we opened these places, it doesn’t make financial sense to it,” he said. “It’s gonna be a throwback fast-food place. I’m excited about it once we get the green light on it.”

Once Analog Moline’s patio opens, he hopes to re-bid the Bummer Burger project.

Devon’s Complaint Dept. (with the Pabst sign) is next to Armored Gardens (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Bush is pumped by the further cultural development in downtown Davenport, with the planned indie-movie theater (co-owned by filmmakers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods) and the restored Capitol Theatre.

“There are so many good things happening, I’m really thrilled,” he said. “I’m really stoked about what’s happening.”

Plans for Look QC

There is no website for the Look QC magazine. “I just wanted to get it out into the world and not have to manage another website on top of it,” Bush said.

He’s working with Visit Quad Cities to get copies into their visitor centers and possibly area hotels.

Haley Walker of Rock Island’s Brick & Motor Boutique in the first Look QC issue (photo by Dasha Denger).

Look QC is planned to come out once a year, and 600 copies were initially printed.

“I have lived here for most of my life and the Quad Cities has never been better. I want to throw fuel on the fire and highlight just some of the creators and places that have made it their mission to make this place better,” Bush said.

Of one of the new features, he called Floyd’s Burgers “the most successful food truck in the history of the Quad Cities.”

“Here, the barrier to entry is so much better, to start a business here,” Bush said, comparing the QC to most larger cities. “Every one of these stories is someone who just had a dream, and this is the place I’m gonna do it and it’s working for them. It’s really cool to see.”

“It’s people and places I really believe in, that I want to promote,” he said. “They all offer something different. I didn’t want all food and beverage; I didn’t want all retail. I tried to mix it up.”

Don’t call the QC “cool”

Bummer City is designed as a counter-cultural band, Bush said, noting its self-deprecating name. When the QC really started developing its downtowns, tourism leaders would compare it to “cool” cities like Nashville and Austin, he recalled.

A page in the first issue features Devon’s Complaint Dept. (photos by Dasha Denger).

“The way to sell to young people is to never call it cool,” Bush said. “Undersell, right? We’re Davenport, we’re the Quad Cities. It’s the idea, we want people to come here and be surprised at what we have.”

“Don’t try to sell someone on an inflated idea of yourself – underplay it, and let them be surprised at how great it is,” Bush said. “Always under-promise and over-deliver in everything you do.”

What started that concept was when several years ago, he made up black and gray T-shirts that quoted a 1903 Chicago newspaper that called Davenport “The Worst Town in America.”

“We decided to turn the whole company into that,” Bush said. He’s also starting a new QC merchandise line of caps and T-shirts.

Phil Young, co-owner of Fleet Feet (4257 Elmore Ave., Davenport) penned a first-person essay for the magazine.

Look QC is not meant as a comprehensive guide of everything good happening here.

“I’ve agonized over putting this out because there will be certainly be pushback over omissions,” Bush wrote this week. “I meant to omit no one, but I can’t include everyone or it wouldn’t be a curated guide.

It was created to plant an idea. And that idea is this:

“Covid-19 has caused the tectonic plates of livability to shift,” he wrote. “The value proposition of large cities used to greatly outweigh the Quad Cities, and it doesn’t anymore. We don’t have private companies buying up neighborhoods and jacking up prices.

“You have everything you need and most of what you want here. We have what I call a ‘warm porridge’ situation. There is plenty for you to enjoy in this community without the baggage and price tag that comes with a big city.”