A tenant with a desire to enter the Des Moines market and an owner who took a chance on the rehabilitation of a historic row house have met in the East Village.
Gerald "JJ" Caligiuri, who owns the Della Viti wine bar in Ames, plans to move his business into the 120-year-old Norden Hall, which developer Jake Christensen had moved last summer to 425 E. Grand Ave. from its original spot at 709 E. Locust St.
Christensen and investors paid $180,000 for the city parking lot on East Grand, bought Norden Hall and transported the 250-ton structure in a midnight move. At the time, the whole process seemed a curious oddity.
His original plans called for a restaurant topped by offices. That plan was scrapped, and the entire building was rehabbed with a single tenant in mind. Orchestrate Hospitality expressed an interest, but couldn't make it work.
For the purposes of meeting fire and building codes, the renovation of Norden Hall had to be treated as a new construction project. A basement was excavated to accommodate the building.
In tandem with CBRE|Hubbell Commercial broker Paul Weeks, Christensen was able to pique the interest of Caligiuri, who had brought his concept for an wine bar, or "adult watering hole," to Ames in 2012.
As Caligiuri saw it, there was a need in Ames for a place where people could have chat without screaming over the din of a crowded bar, ear-shattering music or the distraction of the broadcast sporting event of the day.
"I want to draw more of the adult crowd who wants to listen to some jazz and relax -- people who want to come in and listen to each other rather than scream at each other," he said.
Caligiuri also desired the foot traffic that Des Moines could bring to such an establishment, especially in the East Village.
"We opened in Ames, and the reaction and feedback was that this would be great in Des Moines," he said. "The East Village is really growing and vibrant; there's great nightlife with Wooly's and all the shows. Our whole vibe kind of fits in with that."
Caligiuri plans to sell the Ames location to friends. He and his wife, Cora, have children ages 5 and 3 and he doesn't want the distraction of running to two businesses in two cities.
Caligiuri will add a unique twist to the wine bar: vending machines. The machines -- Napa Technology WineStations -- which provide patrons an opportunity to purchase a variety of wines by the glass or in 1 1/2-ounce sampling cups. The process proves less expensive for the customer and the operator. The establishment also will sell wine by the bottle and glass.
BUSINESS RECORD INSIDER:
Want to learn more about some of the details of the deal and Caligiuri's plans that reporter Kent Darr found interesting? Click here