MUSCATINE, Iowa — Although it may look the same to the untrained eye, there are signs of life at the building that once housed a button factory during the heyday of Muscatine’s pearl button industry.
The Pearl City Chophouse, 215 W. Mississippi Drive, a steakhouse restaurant, is scheduled to open in mid-August. The restaurant replaces the Button Factory restaurant nearly a year after the former restaurant closed it's doors for good.
New owner and operator Jim Kharbush, of Iowa City, didn't change much when he decided to lease the building from Tom and Ann Meeker. He wanted to keep the tradition and honor Muscatine's history with his restaurant.
"This building is the button factory," Kharbush said, adding he couldn't change much because of the "beautiful brick and wood design of the building."
Kharbush knows how important tradition and history are to Muscatine so he's going to hang old Muscatine photos throughout the restaurant.
"We'll rotate the photos out to get new ones in," Kharbush said.
The Chophouse's menu will feature high quality steaks, seafood and pasta. Kharbush also owned and operated a steakhouse in Iowa City called The Lark until 2008. He contacted Tom Meeker in February about opening the restaurant in Muscatine because he said the town "lacked a good steakhouse."
"He called me just in the nick of time because I was ready to turn this building into a business complex," Tom Meeker said. "A lot of people from town knew him because of the Lark and he has a good reputation in town."
It was also recently announced that a steakhouse, 101 West, will soon open across the street on the first floor of the former Muscatine Hotel. Kharbush said this won't be a problem for his restaurant; it will be a positive for both businesses and the town.
"My plan is to start bringing people in from around the area to downtown Muscatine and enjoy what downtown has to offer," Kharbush said.
The upstairs will continue to house banquets holding up to 200 guests. He said he hopes to open within the next two or three weeks, with the hours right now set for 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. during the week and open until 10 p.m. on the weekends. He said the expected total number of employees is at around 50.
"We have some staff hired but we're still looking for people with restaurant experience," Kharbush said.
With his restaurant and 101 West, Kharbush sees the downtown headed in the right direction.
"It could be something close to like a Galena, Ill., where they have antiques shops where people come in from out of town to shop," Kharbush said. "This is a very historic area by the river."