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Landmark Store to Close Doors

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) – Cedar Rapids is saying goodbye to one of its oldest businesses in the next few months. Smulekoff’s Furniture Store will be selling it’s building and land to the city as part of a federal flood buyout program.

What remains of the “Chalk the Walk” decorations from the Freedom Festival around the sidewalk near Smulekoff’s gives you an idea about how the Smulekoff’s business isn’t just centrally located in Cedar Rapids, but was a central part of the city in many other ways.

“Henry Smulekoff was a Russian immigrant who found a very simple way to start selling goods. He got a little cart, a little peddler’s cart, and he traveled around Linn County and the area selling small items from the cart and bringing with him the news of the town,” said Cedar Rapids Historian Mark Stoffer Hunter.

Humble beginnings to one of the most recognizable names in town, 125 years later.

“I think it’s really sad to see something like this go out of the city especially since it’s been here that long,” said Smulekoff’s shopper Sheree VanHauen.

Like so many other properties around Cedar Rapids, the city is taking control of the land as part of the federal flood buyout program for $4.7 million.

“Several years ago, the Smulekoff’s family, the company, indicated that they wanted to put that building on the buyout,” said Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett.

It’s not the first time that the city the Smulekoff’s have struck a deal. The family used to own Mays Island, where they had a store. That land was sold to Cedar Rapids in the name of helping the city improve itself.

Stoffer Hunter says he sees that same kind of work for the greater good in this deal.

“The sale of this building to the city will allow an opportunity for it to be redeveloped and the history of the building to be preserved,” said Stoffer Hunter.

The company hasn’t released a statement about their deal with the city, they say they will release more information on Tuesday.

For shoppers like Janet Sullivan, the news is bittersweet. After years of shopping for her Iowa City home all the way in Cedar Rapids, she walked out with her brand new purchases for what could be the last time.

“We got a couple lamps, we’ve gotten carpet here, furniture, mattresses,” said Sullivan. “I just think this story is great. I’m really disappointed.”

The city says it will start looking into what to do with the building now. They’ll open the property up to any kind of proposals, hoping to land on something that brings more housing options to the downtown area.
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