The 600-seat brick Wieting Theatre in Toledo opened its doors September 12, 1912, with a capacity crowd for the Sheehan English Opera Company’s presentation of “Il Travatore.” As with many theatres across the country, focus shifted to movies and by the late 1950s, with the advent of television, the Wieting Theatre cut back to a part-time schedule. By 1958, the doors had temporarily closed.
Two years later, a group a concerned Toledo residents organized the Toledo Community Theatre Guild and took over operations of the historic facility. A reopening ceremony was held in September 1960, and in the spring of 1961, the first live production was presented by the Cornell College Players.
The Wieting Theatre is currently undergoing a substantial renovation project; a grand reopening is planned for January 2012, with new restrooms, new seats, new electrical systems, new heating and cooling, and a state-of-the-art digital sound and digital 3D projection systems.
Likely one of the youngest libraries in the state, the Elberon Public Library opened its doors on June 9, 1990. It originally opened as a branch of the library in Keystone, a community seven miles west of Elberon. The Keystone Public Library agreed to offer advice along with a loan of 200 books, while the City of Elberon agreed to allow the library to use the meeting room in the local community center.
As the library collection grew, so did the need for a larger library space. On February 13, 2006, the Elberon Public Library officially opened in a permanent space in the front of the expanded Elberon Community Center. The new space led to a growth in visitors and circulation, with 483 more visitors and 1,001 more items checked out in 2006. The library now holds over 5,000 books, 500 videos, and checked out nearly 6,000 items to community members in 2010.
Problems with electrical wiring and sanitary sewage caused the community-owned Traer Theatre to close its doors in 2002. The closing sparked a well-organized grassroots effort to repair, restore, and reopen the theatre, located in an 1895 building in downtown Traer in Tama County. Along with hundreds of hours of volunteer labor, local businesses and residents contributed over $150,000 over a four-year period, allowing the renovated theatre to reopen to the public in August 2006.
Today, the Traer Theatre continues to show first-run movies four days each week for just $2.00 per ticket. The 144-seat, volunteer-run theatre has received additional upgrades since the initial renovation, including a state-of-the-art sound system donated by a local bank. For current showtimes, check out the theatre’s website or call the movie line at (319) 478-2094.
The small Hometown Foods grocery store chain was established in 1996, when Iowa City resident Lyndon Johnson purchased an independent grocery store in the Grundy County town of Conrad, Iowa. Prior to the new store ownership venture, Johnson had spent his entire career in the grocery business, working in a variety of roles in stores across the state from Muscatine to Dubuque to Ottumwa.
Next, Johnson purchased the grocery store in Gladbrook in adjacent Tama County in 2000. Since opening the Gladborook store, the successful chain has added for more stores and now has a presence in Waterloo, Hubbard, State Center, and Baxter. In 2010, he was recognized by the Iowa Grocery Industry Association as Retailer of the Year. The Gladbrook and other stores are open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.