Great Revivalist Brewery owner Richard Schwab said Friday it was a combination of factors that led him to open a new location in his longtime hometown of Rock Island.
“We love Geneseo first and foremost,” he said of the three-and-a-half-year-old brewery/restaurant at 125 S. Oakwood Ave., which was opened just before COVID shutdowns. They added a large outdoor patio and a game room, and capacity for 300 customers, but as the surrounding strip mall filled up, Great Revivalist only has parking for up to 60.
“We’ve been struggling a little, looking to expand our brand,” Schwab said Friday afternoon, noting he tried to have his rent reduced and looked for alternative Geneseo spots, but all with no luck. “It financially made no sense to stay there.”
Geneseo has just one full-time employee and 15 part-time, whereas the new Clinton location (in a historic church) has 65 full-time and 20 part-time staff. The Clinton hours (238 4th Ave. S) are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
“In Clinton, we could have not asked for a better situation,” he said of its big success, creating a destination and the first craft brewery for that Iowa city. “We own the entire block; there’s not a single thing I would change about Clinton. It has saved the Great Revivalist brand. We really restored (the church) back to its glory.”
Schwab looked at a variety of locations to move to the QC, including a dealership on Rock Island’s 4th Avenue across from Awake Coffee, but wanted to duplicate the success in Clinton, by restoring an historic building.
He found that the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum (700 22nd Ave., Rock Island) was planning to close anyway after Sept. 30.
“I like to take these kinds of things, this could be another Clinton for us,” Schwab said of Karpeles, which is a former Christian Science church dating from 1914-15 that’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
He said that area of Rock Island is a “food desert” and not only would Great Revivalist be a great destination and preserve and occupy an empty historic landmark, it would provide a needed dining establishment seven days a week (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
It will not be a typical bar, open very late, since they will close at 10 p.m., and Great Revivalist prides itself on a “family atmosphere,” Schwab said Friday, noting its very varied menu.
The new Rock Island restaurant will have multiple dining and bar areas – an outside patio facing 22nd Street, a “sports bar/lobby” area in the current exhibit hall (keeping the glass-enclosed displays), a main restaurant where the former church pews are (creating cut-out spaces for tables), and downstairs bar area where the brewery will be.
“We’re going to restore it to its neo-classical look — it’s a gorgeous, magnificent fixture for the community,” Schwab said. “The thought of it sitting empty would be horrible.”
“We’ll keep the actual manuscripts and museum items, to allow us to show those off,” he said. “The main thing we’re looking for is not just another brewery, but a great destination.
“We love this place,” Schwab said of Karpeles. “The museum is going to be phenomenal. I would love to find an old fire station, or an old school, or old abandoned warehouse, something that has historical significance.”
He loves the soaring dome at the Karpeles main auditorium (which has been a popular wedding venue), with the dome 63 feet up, and Tiffany stained glass, he said.
The renovations will restore all the stained glass, interior and exterior fixes, and an elevator will be installed, Schwab said. He hopes to add hanging glass-pendant lighting at Karpeles, like he’s done strikingly in the old Clinton church.
“I live in Rock Island, I love Rock Island,” Schwab said. “It’s a beautiful place. I just feel comfortable here, having the opportunity to put something where you live. You can’t pick the location, the location picks you.”
“The museum represents our brand better than anything,” he said, noting he expects between 50 and 75 employees for Rock Island, making beer, soda, and seltzer, plus a menu for three meals a day, seven days a week – ideally opening by June 2024.
In 2024, the former Great River Brewery (separate from Great Revivalist) also expects to reopen in downtown Davenport, after having been shut down since the 2019 floods.
“To say we are excited for this development would be an understatement. Can’t wait to have GRB back on the block,” Downtown Davenport posted recently on its Facebook page.
“Visit Quad Cities is thrilled about these new developments and destination assets coming online,” Dave Herrell, president and CEO, Visit Quad Cities, said late Friday afternoon. “Great Revivalist Brew Lab at Karpeles will be a great addition in Rock Island and will activate a historic and very special neighborhood in a unique way. Plus, Karpeles has been a hidden gem in the Quad Cities, and we are excited that they will be involved with this new venture.
“And with Great River Brewery re-opening in Downtown Davenport in a location that has been re-invigorated is a great addition to what downtown has to offer visitors and residents,” Herrell said. “It is always encouraging to see investors and small businesses doing things that make our regional destination authentic and builds our tourism product.
“Our QC Ale Trail is also an important opportunity to showcase our brewery scene and these new opportunities will continue to shape that successful program,” he added.
In the next two months, Schwab expects to work with the city of Rock Island to apply for rezoning and a liquor license. Saturday, Sept. 30 will be the last day both Karpeles and the Geneseo brew lab will be open — the Karpeles hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Great Revivalist hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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