CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) by Connor Morgan— When Mary Kay McGrath found out in late May about a potential opportunity to purchase a Czech Village property, she immediately got to work, creating Novak Investments LLC as a means to acquire one or two shops in the historic district.
She had heard from several friends that investor Baron Stark, who had purchased a variety of buildings in Czech Village with the hopes of restoring them after the 2008 flood, was putting them on the block.
Buy one shop and salvage it, McGrath thought, and potential convert it into a coffee shop to draw more business to the area.
Shortly into the process, she discovered Stark wasn’t interested in parting with one property, but rather was looking to package many together.
McGrath didn’t hesitate, but continued her string of spontaneity with the purchase of eight buildings in the village, capping an eventful three weeks.
“This to me is a labor of love,” said McGrath, who has fond memories of her grandparents shopping in Czech Village as a child.
The price of the properties is somewhat irrelevant — reportedly in the millions — as McGrath envisions an “up-and-coming” future for the district that hasn’t quite recovered since 2008.
Despite the buildings staying relatively intact, according to historian Mark Stoffer Hunter, many key retailers, including Polehna’s Meat Market, departed.
“I’ve been working hard to bring new businesses down here,” said McGrath, who is hoping to add a restaurant in the old Sauce Bar & Bistro.
McGrath also joins a growing contingent of community leaders aiming to resurrect a familiar attraction — the Roundhouse — which served as a market for decades.
Business owners are expressing optimism, as though McGrath’s very presence is a sign of hope for things to come.
“Mary Kay [came in] and said what her plans were, and it sounded like a great opportunity,” said Mike Flack, the owner of Ace and Eight’s Saloon. “I think she has the inspiration to get it going again.”
McGrath has been working tirelessly since acquiring the properties in late May, and hopes to see increased foot traffic for area businesses and a substantial amount of growth within the next year.