For more than two weeks, fans of John’s Grocery (401 E. Market St.), known as much for its vast beer selection and late night snacks as for its deli sandwiches and selection of convenient drugstore supplies, suffered while the store underwent renovations. But the Iowa City institution is now fully back in action, and will hold a reopening party on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 4 p.m. to celebrate its first interior changes in 70 years of business.
The recent closure, which began Jan. 3 and ended this past Monday, Jan. 19, marked the first time John’s Grocery had closed its doors for an extended period since it opened in 1948. The building that houses it, on the corner of Market and Gilbert Streets, is 168 years old, and has undergone little renovation during that time.
John’s kept its hearty following of customers and fans up to date on the renovations through their Facebook page, posting photos of the demolition of the sales floor, installation of new flooring, hookups of coolers and freezers, and finally the restocking of the famous beer room. The layout of the once charmingly cramped store has been reconfigured to allow for freer movement, and changes were planned for the building’s basement to better facilitate wine and beer storage.
The celebration on Thursday will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony. After that, visitors can enjoy tastings of John’s wine, beer and liquor. Food will also be on offer from Erma’s Kitchen. To add to the festivities, five percent of sales will go to Iowa City nonprofits, including the Horace Mann Elementary PTA, Iowa Baseball program and Boy Scouts of America. And through Sunday, Jan. 24, John’s will offer customers 10 percent off all purchases.
“It’s a way to reintroduce our customers, new and old, to our business and showcase all the work we did to bring our 160-year-old business into the modern age while still keeping the connection to the past,” said current owner Doug Alberhasky, the grandson of the store’s original owners.