CLARION - New business continues to be a highlight in Clarion this year, Clarion Chamber and Development Director Kim Heller said.
In the past year, at least eight new businesses have opened their doors in the Wright County community and look forward to contributing to the community's growth in the future.
After one year in business, the Clarion Theater in downtown Clarion has proven to be a success and an important part of the community, drawing movie-goers from throughout Wright County and beyond, theater manager LeAnn Johnson said.
-Messenger photo by Emilie Nelson-Jenson
Volunteer Yanileth Garcia pours butter on top of a freshly popped bag of popcorn at the Clarion Theater. The theater, which has been under the operation of a board, two managers and community volunteers, was in danger of closing its doors until the community took over operations in 2012.
"We've just completed our first full year in business," said Johnson. "We had our first show Jan. 13 of last year. Since then we have had 14,000 customers come through the doors."
The theater was almost lost when the original owner, Fridley Theatres, closed it in September 2011. The community quickly came to the theater's rescue, forming a board of directors and holding fundraisers to bring in more than $400,000 in donations and pledges to once again bring the movies to Clarion.
"The community has been a huge help," said Johnson. "It would have been a shame to see it close for good. We had a fundraiser; they helped us raise almost $420,000. We are a nonprofit."
The newly renovated theater received fresh paint, new flooring in the lobby, new counters, popcorn and pop machines at the concession stand, remodeled restrooms, new seats and a new 3-D digital projector.
The community's donations have allowed the theater to keep ticket prices low at $4 for adults, $2 for children and $5 for 3-D movies. Movies are shown on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons.
"We're keeping up with the latest movies," said Johnson. "We've been showing all of the popular ones and we've been able to do a few midnight showings."
The theater is operated by two managers, Johnson said. Everything else is done by community volunteers.
"Our volunteers have been wonderful," she said. "They clean up, take tickets, work the concessions. We couldn't do it without them."
Across the square from the theater, sisters-in-law Jolene Rasmussen and Dawn Rasmussen brought their hobbies together to create a business, Art U Creative. The Rasmussens opened a storefront on the city square in May and said business has been good ever since.
"I've always done vinyl lettering and signs, said Dawn Rasmussen. "Jolene does quilting. We both worked from our homes and had started to outgrow our work spaces. This has been perfect for us."
Dawn Rasmussen creates vinyl lettering and designs for everything from gift items to large business signage.
"I've had the chance to do lettering for a few places on Main Street since we've been here," she said. "People are bringing in items all of the time. We have definitely stayed busy." She said it has been nice to have a presence in the community.
"I'm definitely meeting more people in town," she said. "It's been fun getting to know them."
The community's hospital, Wright Medical Center, also underwent changes in the past year, including a name change to Iowa Specialty Hospital.
"We just changed our name in June," said Kim Marker, marketing leader at Iowa Specialty Hospital. "Part of that is we have been partners with the Belmond Medical Center for many years, but with two different names, people just didn't always know that."
As the two medical facilities continue to work together, the partnership has meant they have been able to offer more services.
"Between them we had added a lot of surgical services," Marker said. "We don't realize how lucky we are to have all of these services in our hometown."
Marker said the Clarion facility has undergone extensive renovations since 2011. A new surgery center was added then with three new operating rooms, and 14 outpatient bays. In 2012, the former surgical wing was remodeled into a new labor and delivery center.
"We have a newly remodeled OB department, we were able to leave one of the old operating rooms in that wing to have especially for any C-section procedures," said Marker. "Our new OB patient rooms are large and very family friendly with lots of room for visitors and a support person."
Marker said the orthopedic services offered at the hospital have been a large draw for patients.
"We've had orthopedic patients come in for procedures from as far away as the Iowa City area, she said.