Chuck's Restaurant, at 3610 Sixth Ave. in Des Moines, is expected to reopen later this month after the building in which its located underwent a $1.4 million renovation. "The business owners in [Highland Park] knew if we all stepped up and did these renovations, it would bring more people to this area," said Emily Jones, the restaurant's owner. Below, a sign from when Chuck's opened hangs on a wall in one of the dining rooms. Photos by Kathy A. Bolten
 
It wasn't uncommon for an electrical fuse to be blown at Chuck’s Restaurant, one of the Des Moines area’s oldest dining establishments.

The question that always needed to be answered, though, was in which fuse panel was the blown fuse located, said Emily Jones, who with husband Lucas Jones purchased the restaurant and the building it is housed in in 2014.

"We had eight different panels – some were downstairs, some were in the back of the building," she said. "Now we have one huge, new panel in the back. Everything is labeled and we don’t have any more electrical fire issues."

Upgrading the electrical system was among the $1.4 million in recently completed upgrades that occurred in the building, located at 3610 Sixth Ave. in Des Moines. In addition, the plumbing was repaired, the aged roof was replaced, new ceilings and floors were installed, the exterior facade was redone, and the kitchen was upgraded and some new appliances installed. Four apartments above the restaurant were rehabilitated.
The Joneses bought the building about seven years ago after the death of the restaurant’s longtime owner, Linda Bisignano. The restaurant opened in 1956 and was originally owned and operated by Bisignano’s parents, Chuck and Elizabeth Bisignano.

A portion of the structure built in 1895 was a slaughterhouse, Jones said. Large hooks on which slaughtered livestock was hung are still attached to the ceiling in the back of the building, she said. The hooks are concealed by ceiling tiles.

What’s now known as the restaurant’s Music Room originally was a cooler, Jones said. "The walls are concrete and metal. We didn’t touch the room when we did the renovations because the whole thing would have had to have been torn apart."

Everything else, though, was upgraded or replaced.

The building’s renovations were completed with assistance from Invest DSM and Neighborhood Development Corp. Invest DSM, a nonprofit corporation that is overseeing an expanded effort to revitalize the city’s neighborhoods, contributed $250,000 to the renovation. Neighborhood Development Corp. contributed $700,000.

"Chuck’s has been a longtime staple in our community and it anchors the neighborhood," said Abbey Gilroy, the nonprofit Neighborhood Development Corp.’s director of real estate development.
The restaurant "brings people to the neighborhood that maybe otherwise may not come to the area," she said. "When people go to Chuck’s they may look across the street and see the bakery or coffee shop and say, ‘Let’s come back this weekend and visit those.’"

Renovation of the building Chuck’s is located in and upgrades to storefronts on the east side of Sixth Avenue have sparked interest by others in either locating in the area or improving their properties, Gilroy said.

A building at 3720 Sixth Ave. is being renovated and a real estate office plans to locate in it, she said. Buildings at 3523 and 3524 Sixth Ave. were purchased by a local developer earlier this year and renovations are underway on one of the structures. A building at 413 Euclid Ave. is also being renovated.

"We’re starting to see some private investment in the area, and it is becoming contagious," Gilroy said.

Chuck’s is expected to reopen later this month. Initially it will offer a limited, carryout menu that will include pizza, salad and onion rings, Jones said.

When customers return to the dining rooms, they’ll be greeted with murals painted on walls by local artists and a wall of historical photos and news articles about Chuck’s.

Before the renovation, bottles of wine and hard liquors were stored in milk crates behind the bar. The crates have been replaced with shelves.

"We’ve really upgraded a lot of things," Jones said. "I think it will really be great for the entire neighborhood."

 

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A large mural by artist Matt Graves is painted on a wall of one of the dining rooms. In the previous photo, the building's facade was cleaned and its canopy removed. Photos by Kathy A. Bolten