As a native Clintonian, now living in Cedar Rapids, I see a lot of similarities between the two cities, despite the difference in size.
Like Cedar Rapids, Clinton came back from a devastating flood. Like Cedar Rapids, Clinton sits on a river. Like Cedar Rapids, Clinton has a beautiful, historic downtown district. And like Cedar Rapids, Clinton has residents who are proud of its history and heritage.
Clinton has a beautiful riverfront, and a phenomenal, ample-parking downtown district that could be a jewel for commerce and business growth for travelers and locals alike. There are fantastic buildings that could so easily house vinyl record stores, vintage shops, or breweries. The old bank on Fifth Avenue — which has seen several iterations of businesses — has wonderful potential as a venue space for wedding receptions, parties, and more.
But I’d be remiss to forget what has grown there since I left in 2005. Wide River Winery is a perfect place for a quiet afternoon with friends and delicious wine. 392 Cafe is a hotspot for great coffee and treats. There’s hardly a better place in town for a summer lunch or dinner than the outside patio at the Candlelight. Clinton’s also built up a culture for bicyclists, with bike shops on the north and south ends of town.
I thank you, Clinton business owners and locals, for building and patronizing these local shops. In an era of Amazon taking over every aspect of our retail lives, I appreciate local business keeping the American dream alive.
But Clinton has so much more room for opportunities to grow.
This letter is a call to action for anyone reading, whether you live in my hometown, or whether you’re looking at a place to set up shop. Clinton is a unique, beautiful city. A downtown hotel would be the perfect setting on the picturesque riverfront. A growth of vintage furniture stores, record shops, cafes and eateries, and a brewery could attract not only out-of-town family, but travelers from around the Midwest and beyond.
When I visit LeClaire, I’m so tickled to see growth in that sleepy river town. I tell friends in Cedar Rapids to visit and take in an afternoon there. Visit the distillery, take in the quirky shops, and get some pictures of the stunning Mississippi.
But there is literally no reason Clinton couldn’t build the same bustling community. Or better.
So do it, readers. Brush off the dust from the gem that is Clinton and build something magnificent there. It was a classic Hollywood film — filmed in, and based in Iowa — that once said: “Build it and they will come.”
Erin (Tiesman) Schroeder,