BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The smell of warm tortillas and smoke filled the corner of 7th Street and Avenue G Thursday evening as live music permeated the screened-in porch of what is now TACO, TACO, TAKOS!
The grand opening of the Hesse 7th Street Marketplace was greeted by several hundred people in the afternoon and then again in the evening. The taco bar, in what used to be the outside seating area of the Ivy Bake Shoppe, was full to capacity for most of the hour between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and then the crowd spilled over into “sip. (n.) a coffee and wine bistro”. Where wines, beer, and small snack food plates were being prepared for guests.
Holly Frary, the owner of “sip” said the day was wonderful, with the one exception of her espresso machine not arriving until just after 4 p.m. Drake Bishop from Country Club Coffee was on hand Thursday evening, literally putting the finishing touches on the set up of the machine.
“We were just so excited to be able to be open this morning and introduce ourselves to this community,” Frary said. “Even with the espresso machine not in, people were very understanding and excited for us to be open.”
Frary said “sip” offered small plate breakfasts beginning at 7 a.m. Thursday and she said the store had a steady stream of customers all day.
“Everyone has been so positive,” she said. “They’ve been adoring what we’ve done with the space and the other business owners in town have all been coming in and have been so supportive of what we’re doing.
The taco bar was bustling for most of the day as well and featured local musicians singing while customers enjoyed the tacos. A few local celebrities were on hand for dinner including Fort Madison High School’s new head football Coach Tony Shiffman and a few of his staff, 8th District Judge John Wright and family, and Connections Bank CEO Matt Morris and his family. Hitomi Wendorf, who owns the marketplace with husband Jimmy, was running supplies between the taco bar and Simple Table, the couple’s other restaurant just across the street.
Lara Haas, owner of Sun Meets Moon Healing, which has opened a shop in the artisan north corner of the marketplace, was outside greeting customers and talking about her venture with them.
“It’s been a very good day and we’ve had lots of people down here today,” Haas said.
Harvestville Farms which is located just north of sip and Sugar Lumps also have businesses in the marketplace.