Holy mackerel, so now THIS is happening. The Derecho is a disaster wrapped in the ongoing pandemic tragedy, that's impaled on a stick and roasted over the 2020 dumpster fire. We knew things had taken a turn on Monday when the power went out in the store and rain water started coming through our second floor ceiling, which was thus coming through two floors of apartments above us, and all from a hole torn in the building's roof by high winds.
Every square mile of Cedar Rapids has been impacted. Though the storm hit a majority of Iowa's population centers in a single day, Cedar Rapids seems to have born the brunt.
It's hard not get down, and frustrated. From the massive Flood of 2008, the Flood of 2016, NewBo Evolve, the Pandemic, and now the Derecho, Cedar Rapids has slogged through a lot over the years.
This year seems worse than most, though, because the virus lurks constantly in the back of the mind. We, like other business owners in NewBo-Czech Village, have had to take this year week-to-week or day-to-day. And we all know that circumstances are too much to control, and it would be impossible for the neighborhood to look the exact same in 2021 as it it does now.
But that makes us want to fight to our last for the community.
RAYGUN owes a great debt to the communities who have welcomed us, and those same communities that raised a lot of us from birth.
When I first toured Cedar Rapids, looking for a store space, it was not too long after the Floods of 2008. The people who showed me around were working to renovate the old CSPS Hall and turn it into a performing arts center (we walked around in hard hats), and they also pointed to a huge sheet-metal-looking-pole-barn that they said was going to be an "indoor farmers market."
Even with a healthy imagination, it seemed like a heavy lift!
But a few years later, I went to an event at Legion Arts in the fully renovated CSPS Hall then walked around NewBo in the evening, where outdoor yoga was happening on the lawn in front of NewBo City Market, and people were meeting at Brewhemia. Those were just some of the pioneers who helped blaze a trail after disaster, alongside businesses and organizations like The African American Museum, the Czech and Slovak Museum, Eduskate, Goldfinch, 965 Guitars, The Cherry Building, Lions Bridge Brewing, Geonetric and the accelerator, Next Page Books, and so many others.
There was an amazing energy to the neighborhood that we wanted to be a part of. And so we signed a lease for a yet-to-be-built building at the corner just north of NewBo City Market.
It is that energy that we try and maintain, and to keep up with.
As flood waters were rising in 2016, hundreds of volunteers turned out to help sandbag across downtown. With the power out, restaurants were bringing food that was going bad, giving it away from tables on the lawn in front of NewBo City Market.
Even in a disaster, there was a positive vibe flowing.
After the Flood of 2016, which also temporarily closed the store, the community bounced back in force, with shop local campaigns and outpourings of good will.
We, in turn, didn't shrink the company, we decided to expand and add something more to the neighborhood. We took over empty space on the second floor of our building and created a space for events -- primarily arts events and community gatherings -- that would be free to those who wanted to use it.
^^^ That space became a small conduit for the creative energy that was flowing through Cedar Rapids. We were lucky enough to host art shows for students or adults, fashion shows, musicians, performers, shows like The Vagina Monologues, events like The Hook or slam poetry, political meet-and-greets for the Phoenix Club (and for then-candidate Abby Finkenauer), March For Our Lives, fundraisers for groups like Planned Parenthood, Tanager Place, Iowa Harm Reduction, Women Lead Change, events like EntreFest, the Iowa Ideas Conference, and, the biggest by far, Stacey Walker and Simeon Talley's podcast that hosted Beto after he announced his run for president.
^^^ Wow: hugging in a big crowd of people.
You don't see that upstairs anymore.
The night of the Beto event, if felt like NewBo-CV was the absolute center of the universe.
This year, though, the most action that second floor has seen since March has been the fans and dehumidifiers!
Now, this is not a call for events or for crowds or even for people to come to the store!
We're still in the middle of a pandemic and encourage everyone to wear masks and distance and shop safely. We don't need to pretend like everything's normal and we can all hop in the same Lake-of-the-Ozarks-hot-tub together.
We require masks in our store and cap capacity for the safety of all.
(Sidebar: there is plenty of space to spread out, power, and internet, so if you are looking for a place to charge and plug in, stop by if we have room)
But the detachment of this year, the removal of the connection that events provides, makes us remember all of the things we are working hard to bring back.
So this, I guess, is a promise that we aren't going anywhere. We are going do our part to maintain through the rest of this year, to solidly commit to staying put, and to do everything we can to give back to a community and a city that has given us so much.
The challenge of all this is immense -- the Pandemic even took down Iowa Football.
We miss everyone! But we are biding our time, and when this bullshit is all over, we will be here to help ensure that this community, and all the communities we inhabit, will kick even more ass than ever.