BELLEVUE, Iowa -- What was for years the biggest tourist attraction in Bellevue will reopen once again as a food and music venue with other retail enhancements.
Potter's Mill, at the south edge of Bellevue on the banks of Mill Creek, will reopen its massive wooden doors to the public sometime in August, said Mark and Rachel Herman, who have leased the property with an option to buy it. The Rochester, Minn., couple plans to open "Flatted Fifth Blues and BBQ at Potter's Mill" on the main floor of the six-story wooden building and "Offbeat Outfitters at Potter's Mill" in the lower creekside level.
"We have wanted to open a music and food venue for 20 years, and we've driven past the Mill many times on our way to family visits," said Mark, a church business administrator. "We're foodies, and music is our shared passion."
The two plan a menu and ambiance true to the history and culture of the nearby Mississippi River, specializing in "BBQ and southern food" and live blues and jazz shows.
The Mill, as it has been known for years, has had a checkered past since its early glory days. Dr. Daryll and Carolyn Eggers bought the 1843 former flour mill as a decrepit hulk in 1980 to save it from being razed. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars restoring the historic structure to the smallest detail. In 1985, they opened it as an upscale restaurant, lounge and gift shop on the Mill's three bottom floors. Visitors flocked to see one of the largest intact mills left in the Midwest. The Mill, which had visitors from all 50 states and many foreign countries, was featured in national travel magazines.
In 1993, major flooding on the Mississippi severely curtailed visitor traffic to the region, and the Mill closed at the end of the year. Since then, it has been reopened and closed again several times, been offered at auction without attracting a serious bid and offered to the city of Bellevue at a deep discount. Most recently, it has been shuttered for several years.
"We'd like to see it work out for (the Hermans). They have a passion for what is needed to make a go of it," Daryll said. "This will be a win-win for Bellevue."
Rachel Herman will keep her job in pediatric nursing for now, while Mark moves to Bellevue to oversee the few modifications planned for the Mill, such as a dining deck overlooking Mill Creek, and staff hiring, which will begin soon. A waiting and overflow area on the second floor will include retail spaces and local artwork.
"We hope this will become a hub of community activity, that there will be something going on all the time," Rachel said.
At the Bellevue Area Chamber of Commerce, director Deanna Cook answers calls regularly from people asking about the Mill.
"Potter's Mill is a huge attraction for Bellevue, its best-known attraction," she said. "People recognize it far and wide. Its opening will benefit the rest of our businesses by bringing traffic to town."