Construction is nearing completion on a new restaurant and sports lounge in downtown Fayette that will be operated by a group of former UIU students courtesy of a UIU economic development grant. (High resolution images are available.)
On hand for the formal check presentation Friday, Nov. 19, were (from left) Kevin Grudzien, Josh Bailey, Ray Bolinger, Aaron Villarreal, Charlie O’Connell, UIU President Alan Walker, Fayette Mayor Bill Dohrmann, UIU Vice President for External Relations Andrew Wenthe, UIU E-Center Director Gerry Scheffelmaier, and Matt Henning.
FAYETTE, Iowa (November 19, 2010) — Upper Iowa University has awarded its third economic development grant to a group of former students who will operate a sports lounge and fine-dining restaurant in a new building that is nearing completion on Fayette’s Main Street. UIU presented the group with the ceremonial Upper Iowa Business Development (UIBD) grant check on Friday, Nov. 19.
The UIBD grant, now in its third year, is a cash award given to a business that wants to start, expand, or relocate a business in the city of Fayette. The grant was created through a $500,000 endowment by Upper Iowa University Board of Trustees Chair Bob Firth and his wife, Betty, who is also a trustee. This year, the University constructed the new building as part of its current $75 million building project on campus and in Fayette. The 2010 UIBD grant includes $40,000 cash. This year only, due to the uniqueness of the project, the grant also includes two years of 75 percent rent abatement and three years of 50 percent rent abatement.
The award was presented to the owners of “Victories,” the restaurant/sports lounge that will occupy the largest portion of UIU’s new building in downtown Fayette. There are four partners in the restaurant, three of whom are UIU grads and one of whom attended the university for two years. They are; Kevin Grudzien of Dyer, Ind., UIU class of 1996, who will serve as CEO and CFO; Aaron Villarreal, Melrose Park, Ill., class of 1996, COO; Charlie O’Connell, Rochester, Minn., class of 1997, CMO; and Ray Bolinger, Chandler, Ariz., who attended UIU for two years, president and general manager. Another UIU alum, Joshua Bailey, Brownsdale, Minn., class of 1995, will serve as assistant general manager and marketing director; and a former Postville resident, Matt Henning, has been hired as executive chef. Bolinger, Bailey and Henning are all relocating to the Fayette area.
“Helping the city of Fayette develop and thrive economically is an important part of our strategic plan for Upper Iowa University, and we are very pleased to be part of bringing another new business into our community,” said UIU President Alan G. Walker. “It is especially gratifying that this year’s recipients are former students who benefitted from receiving their education at UIU and who want to return and give something back.”
“We have enjoyed working with this group over the past several months as they have fleshed out the concept of their restaurant, which will be an exciting and much needed addition to the business community in Fayette,” added Andrew Wenthe, UIU vice president of external affairs. “Together, they bring an extensive and successful background in business, finance, entrepreneurship, and restaurant management that we believe will make Victories successful and a desired destination for patrons from throughout the area.”
Victories, which is currently expected to open in mid-January, is a two-part restaurant. A sports lounge with large-screen TVs, pool tables, and other features, will operate on the first level of the building, and a fine-dining restaurant will serve guests on the upper level. The new owners describe the menu as American classics “with a twist.”
Bolinger, who will run the restaurant on a daily basis, said the restaurant will prepare all fresh-from-scratch menu items, avoiding pre-prepared frozen items. He said the eclectic menu will revolve around Chef Henning, who was trained at the Culinary Institute of America. Downstairs, the sports lounge will offer a faster menu of “typical bar fare” but enhanced with extra ingredients and features. Upstairs, the menu will focus on steak and seafood dishes.
“It was meant to be; the stars just aligned,” Bolinger added. “It just happened that I worked in Phoenix with a kid from Postville who is a phenomenal chef and who wanted to come back.”
The new restaurant’s name, Victories, is primarily the brain child of Villarreal and O’Connell, according to the group. “Part of it refers to sports victories and pays tribute to military victories; but it also refers to the victories, the special, personal celebrations, that are part of everyone’s life,” Villarreal said. “Some of the restaurant décor will honor such victories, including mementoes donated by people from the area. For example, we are very sensitive to the contributions made by military men and women, and some Medal of Honor winners have donated memorabilia to be displayed.”
“We want to be a place where people don’t have to leave Fayette County to celebrate the milestones in their life,” added Bailey.
Most of the restaurant owners met on the UIU campus in Fayette as students and members of Sigma Delta Phi, he added. “We came to the campus in the early ‘90s when it was still on life support,” Bailey said. “But the University gave us a good foundation that led to us being successful in our lives. Now it’s our turn to give back.”
“That’s one of our driving forces, to give back to the University and to Fayette,” added O’Connell. “We came from different places, but Fayette embraced us all. This is a way to be part of something that helps Fayette grow and helps the University.”
“When we were at the University, it was a far different place than it is today,” agreed Grudzien. “We watched people, like Bill and Betty Andres, take action that truly changed the campus and made it a much better place. When people look back 15 years from now, we want to be part of the special things that happened to change UIU and to change Fayette today.”
See More Photos on Flickr
Monica Bayer Heaton
Executive Director of Communications and Marketing
About Upper Iowa University
Founded in 1857, Upper Iowa University is a private, not-for-profit university providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs and leadership development opportunities to over 6,600 students—nationally and internationally—at its Fayette campus and learning centers worldwide. Upper Iowa University is a recognized innovator in offering accredited, quality programs through flexible, multiple delivery systems, including online and independent study. For more information, visit www.uiu.edu.