Smokin’ G’s looks to the future

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ Smokin’ G’s BBQ Restaurant and Catering, 25 W. Main St., is in the same situation many other downtown businesses are in; weighing the costs to reopen due to road closures and construction. Kim and Jerry Gratopp, the eatery’s owners, have decided to reopen their business later this week. Kim said there was no major structural damage, with the building sustaining some roof damage, broken windows, and a little bit of leaking.

Smokin’ G’s BBQ Restaurant and Catering is in the same situation many other downtown businesses are in; weighing the costs to reopen.

Kim and Jerry Gratopp, the eatery’s owners, have decided to reopen their business later this week. The decision, however, was not an easy one to make.

“They’re (city officials) wanting to get us open and up and running as soon as possible, but then they’re deterring people from coming downtown or being on the Main Street area where the construction and demolition takes place, which obviously makes sense, but if I don’t have patrons coming in, it doesn’t really do any good to be paying my staff to be here, have the lights on and cease my business interruption insurance,” Kim said.

The restaurant, located at 25 W. Main St., has been closed since the afternoon of the tornado.

“We had customers before the first warning, and then they left, but I had two employees in here,” Jerry said.

That day, the couple was in the process of securing supplies for RAGBRAI. Their new truck and concession trailer were unharmed. Jerry was able to fulfill their food service commitment on RAGBRAI (July 22-28), but on a more limited scale.

“Everything had to be done on the road, where normally, we continue to smoke and prep meats and haul it to him (Jerry) mid-route so he can restock his supply, so basically what we had ready to go was what we had, so it was a limited supply this year,” Kim said.

The restaurant will be inspected by the health department today, with the Gratopps eager to get their kitchen back up and running.

“We are only able to cook food out of the trailer,” Kim said.

Compared to surrounding businesses, the couple said, they feel lucky their damage is repairable. They were without gas for almost two weeks, getting it restored on Aug. 1. Kim said there was no major structural damage, with the building sustaining some roof damage, broken windows, and a little bit of leaking. Frozen food was donated to New Hope Christian Church, and the refrigerated goods were thrown out. As a way of keeping their staff employed, they have recruited them to assist with the clean up.

“There was a lot of dust in the air downtown with all the brick debris, so there was a lot of dust settling on every surface in here, so we waited about a week to start any cleaning because you could see the dust in the air, and we wanted to make sure once we cleaned, we weren’t having to do it over and over again,” Kim said.

The couple first launched their business as a home-based catering company in May 2008, before moving to its current location in 2014.

The Gratopps are in the process of purchasing the building, and have plans in the works for the building’s unused second level.

“We take it one day at a time, and set our goals each day, then go home, then the next day we do the same thing,” Kim said. “We’re going to have repercussions from this for a long time to the downtown. We have great support from the community, and I think we’ll continue to have that, but again, we’re limited by what’s happening downtown and we know that can’t be avoided.”

Kim said having to cancel catered events has been the most disappointing aspect of the situation.

“In 10 years, I don’t think she’s ever canceled,” Jerry said.

They encourage patrons to utilize the city’s public parking lots when coming downtown.

“There’s a lot of those little detail things we’re trying to figure out. It’s hard to figure that when we still don’t know for sure what our downtown situation will be, so we’re just putting the pieces of the puzzle together, like everyone else is. We know people want us open, and we’re anxious to get open for them.”

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at

641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com