BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Amber Jenkins has always wanted to own her own business. And she’s always advocated for more for kids to do.
On Thursday, she, along with husband Caleb, purchased the iconic Putt-A-Round at 203 1st Street in Fort Madison from John and Jean Lange. The Langes had owned and run the operation since they purchased it from John Heyland in 2005.
Now Jenkins has the business she’s always dreamed of and a place where families can come to spend time together and maybe have an ice cream novelty, or a tart, cold new Lemonade Slushy Shakeup.
“I’ve always wanted to own my own place, and I think I’ve always gravitated toward kids so this makes perfect sense,” she said.
Caleb is employed at Clymax-Molybdenum and said he will keep his job, but instantly has become the handyman and lawn expert.
The two do not have any plans to change the business profile that has been successful for decades, but they do plan to extend hours. Putt-A-Round will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week including most holidays. But Jenkins said to keep an eye on their Facebook page for holiday hours.
Jenkins said she would like to start working with schools, youth groups, and service clubs to have community days similar to the YMCA’s community days at the Fort Madison Swimming Pool.
They’re also going to be renting out their sign for anyone wanting to reach motorists coming into town off Hwy. 61.
The couple has three children and have lived most of their life in Fort Madison.
Rates for a round of golf or use of the hitting machines will not change this year, Jenkins said. Neither will the wildly popular ice cream flavors and food options other than adding a few new things.
“We’re not changing anything with the ice cream,” she said. “We’re really not changing much of anything. Just a few things need to be spruced up, but this place was in pretty good shape when we got it. There will always be ongoing maintenance, though.”
The two are planning on trimming up some of the shrubbery around the property and making the two shelter houses a more prominent feature to provide additional spaces for larger family outings. Caleb Jenkins said he’d also like to figure out a way to make the hitting cages a year-round option.
“We’d like to come up with something where it could be open air in the warmer months and then be able to close it in in the winter and still use it,” he said.
The facility also offers an 18-hole miniature golf course with challenges, and Jenkins said the whale will be back, and the model BNSF bridge will stay.
And despite national and even global supply chain issues, Amber Jenkins said she is fully stocked.
“COVID certainly has had an impact on supply chains. And then when California and New York opened their restaurants again, there was a huge drain on supplies around the country. But we’ve been pretty lucky and have been able to get what we need.”
The Putt-A-Round Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=putt-a-round%20fm
Jenkins said she loves having the historic ISP prison as a backdrop to the operation as it makes for an interesting conversation topic with customers.
“The people at the state need to know how many people ask us about the old prison and if there are tours available. These people are coming in to town to see that, and the bridge, and the Old Fort. I hope they find a good use for it and capitalize on that.”