BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Barker Financial has taken another step to help Fort Madison’s economy.
The property management company out of Iowa City has already picked up and completed an abandoned historic upper apartment restoraation, rehabbed a library, and taken over operations of an historic hotel. Now they want to provide a little summer fun.
The group has negotiated a lease agreement with the city to use the part of the Riverview Marina for food and beverage service, and is renovating the boater services area as well.
Kyle Galloway, the Chief Financial Officer of Barker said one of the first things he remembers of Fort Madison is the marina and the beautiful vista of the riverfront in the city.
“I remember the first time I went down there to Fort Madison with the whole apartment renovation. I stopped down and thought it would be really cool if there was something out there,” he said. “The river is so beautiful down there.”
Barker Financial owns the Kingsley Inn, the Old Lee County Bank building, the former Cattermole Library, the Sears Building and the building where the YMCA will be soon be offering services. They also now own the River Rocks Bar and Grille inside the Kingsley Inn.
Galloway said the company was initially leasing the restaurant and bar, but decided for convenience and accounting it would be better to just own both operations.
Brett Matlick is the General Manager of the River Rocks and will be overseeing operations at the Marina under the name Rocks Dock Outdoor Bar and Grill.
“This allows him to do what he does best, which is try new things and run a restaurant and not worry about where the profits land. In my mind he still runs it. It simplifies things,” Galloway said.
Wes Holtkamp, the property manager for Barker in Fort Madison, said the new venture will be open starting Thursday July 16. Food and beverages will be sold from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
“Thursday and Friday night we’ll start at 2 p.m. and go until 8 or 10 until people are gone. We’ll have a grill station, a portable bar and a service table,” he said.
“This will be very simple, and will be one of those environments where you come down and hang out. It’s not going to be elaborate – not going to be five- and six-course meals. Hamburgers, brats, ribeye sandwiches – which are delicious – and then beer and liquor.”
He said individual cold sides and chips will also be available, and then staffing will be on hand to serve boaters coming off the river. Beer, pop and ice will be available in the service area in the back of the marina for boaters as well.
The inside of that service area has been improved including the restrooms and kitchen area. Area contractors were at the Marina Wednesday afternoon working on painting and other improvements.
The front inside seating won’t be allowed due to flood plain issues so seating will be outside on picnic tables. Holtkamp said anything Barkers bring onto the Marina property has to be removable if flooding occurs.
Music will be playing during service hours and live bands will be performing during the weekends.
“We’re excited. We’ve been working our butts off down here for the past two weeks getting things cleaned up,” Holtkamp said.
Galloway said the venture is low risk right now because Holtkamp and Matlick know the area and what will work. He said outdoor eating in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic is very popular right now.
“What’s working right now is outdoor eating. To me it seems like something that ought to work. Even if it just breaks even, we’re gonna let the market and customers tell us what they think and see where it goes,” Galloway said.
City Manager David Varley said at a recent city council meeting that recreational boating may be waning, but Galloway disagrees.
He said he was at Lake Okoboji last weekend and it was busier than ever.
“So anecdotally, boating in general is way up,” he said.
“Forms of recreation that are outdoors, that were getting squeezed out by youth sports programs are seeing participation levels go back up. Maybe that’s a pandemic effect and it will go back down… or maybe people will see the fun in it again.”
The city is looking at options to make the entire Marina viable again, but Galloway said doing a complete overhaul makes him a little nervous with the amount of money in up front costs that would be needed.
Flooding is always a concern for the Marina and it would have to be pulled out of the flood plain, but also the road to the Marina would need to be lifted out of the floodplain as well.
“This doesn’t feel super risky,” he said. “There’s no doubt there’s bigger issues if we were going to do something larger. I’ve peaked my head in their on a couple trips down and flooding is a problem, but the existing facilities can be utilized.”