From Jerry’s to Caseys – Empty Nest by Curt Swarm


“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss

It’s the people she misses. Lea (pronounced “Lee”) Bradley talks about the recent closing of her and her husband’s business in Mt. Pleasant, Jerry’s Family Restaurant, better known as “Jerry’s Pizza,” the demolition of the building, and Casey’s erecting a convenience store in its place. “There were regular customers who came in everyday. Everyday,” she repeats.
Lea Bradley stands in front of the rubble that was once Jerry’s Family Restaurant. Jerry’s was a favorite stop for politicians. President Obama was there, as was Joe Biden, John Kerry, Kathleen Kennedy (Robert Kennedy’s daughter), Tom and Christie Vilsack, and others.
Dave Helman, former Henry County Democratic Party Chairman, loves to tell the story that Jerry’s is the only restaurant that kicked Joe Biden out to make room for the ladies’ bridge club. It was when Biden was running for president the first time. Dave Helman had set the meeting up. Biden was supposed to be at Jerry’s at 11:00 a.m. The east room was reserved for them. Lea told Dave that she didn’t know if it was going to work because they played bridge there at 1:00. Dave said that he would make sure Biden was out. Well, Lea knew that politicians are notoriously late. Sure enough, the room filled up and no Joe. He came in around 12:15. At 1:00, Lea went to the door and motioned for Dave to clear the room. He did and Biden’s group moved outside on the grassy knoll between Car Quest and Jerry’s. But the ladies had their bridge game.
Lea also has a hard time accepting that the perfectly good building that was Jerry’s Restaurant is being demolished so that a convenience store can go in. There are so many memories wrapped up in that building. They were in it for 42 years. It was an icon of Southeast Iowa. People came from as far away as Cedar Rapids to eat pizza at Jerry’s. And they shipped pizza and tenderloins all over the country for people who wanted food from Jerry’s. When they announced that they were closing, the restaurant was swamped with people ordering half-baked pizzas that they could take home and freeze.
But Lea is thankful that they were not open when the Coronavirus pandemic hit, and restaurants had to close down. She feels so sorry for the restaurants. It’s almost impossible to survive on “to-go” business. She is convinced God was looking after Jerry and her.
Casey’s had approached the Bradleys early on about purchasing the property. However, the Bradleys were hoping a restaurateur would step forward with an offer. It didn’t work out so the Bradleys went with the offer they had.
And Casey’s is a great Iowa-based company that has an outstanding reputation for quality service, food and convenience. The first question people asked was if the Casey’s store on West Washington was going to close or stay open. It is going to stay open. So Mt. Pleasant will join the ranks of towns that have more than one Casey’s General Store—one on West Washington, and one soon-to-be on East Washington. Casey’s plan to have the new convenience store in operation by the end of 2020, a memorable year if there ever was one.
It’s been an emotional week for the whole family with the Jerry’s building being demolished. It’s like losing an old friend—there are just so many memories that can’t be wiped away, or buried in the rubble. Lea has been keeping busy sorting through “stuff” that they accumulated over the years. They sold most of the equipment, but hung onto the pizza ovens. You never know. They have a son, Brent, or the grandkids, who just may want to start a pizza business some day.
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or visit his website at

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