Leann Jacobsen opened the doors to Spencer, Iowa’s swanky coffeehouse and wine bar in September of 2012. Her versatile business, The Bear Coffeehouse + Wine Bar, sits along the Little Sioux River. It is one part of a historic Spencer church that her husband, David Jacobsen, moved from its original location in the middle of town to its current spot overlooking the city’s main river.
The Bear serves simple, robust, and healthy foods that are made from locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. Quality coffee drinks and fine wines are also served to The Bear’s customers every day of the week but Sunday. The owners take pride in the fact that they have created a destination spot for community members to come and meet up with friends, eat high quality food, and sip drinks in a comfortable environment. The Bear attracts a creative and young crowd that previously did not have a spot in town to call their own.
“As we work to build a community that young people want to come back to and raise their families in, they will look for places like The Bear,” Leann says. “It is really rewarding to see them support and love the space.”
With an incredible amount of community support and some help from Kelly McCarty, director of the Northwest Iowa SBDC, Leann and David were able to create The Bear. Kelly assisted the experienced business owners by helping with market research, financial planning and loan applications.
“Kelly lent tremendous expertise and provided resources and support as we were creating a business plan and searching for best practices,” Leann says. “He was very accommodating from a scheduling standpoint and in making himself available, as well.”
Since assisting the Jacobsens, Kelly has become a loyal customer at The Bear, where weekend revenue has doubled in the past year. The business employs ten people, two of whom work full-time at the coffeehouse and wine bar. Leann, who has years of experience in corporate America, believes that working at and managing The Bear is the hardest work she has ever done.
Owners Leann and David are extremely community-minded and David is a lifelong resident of the community. The Bear is part of the local chamber of commerce, but the business goes above and beyond to host community events on its spacious lawn area in front of the river. The local Farmer’s Market is held on its green space and The Bear works in conjunction with the YMCA to host yoga sessions on its terrace.
“My husband and I like to say that we are in this more for the community than for ourselves,” Leann says. “To envision a space and fulfill our vision while having the community so supportive helps us know we are on the right track and doing the right thing.”
The Bear has advertised itself on the radio and in the paper, has done target marketing on Facebook, and has gotten publicity by partnering with other area businesses. Social media is also an effective marketing tool for the business, but word-of-mouth advertising has been essential to The Bear’s success.
In the future, Leann hopes to diversify The Bear Coffeehouse + Wine Bar’s revenue streams by offering catering and takeout. Taking advantage of their spacious terrace by renting it out for wedding receptions and rehearsal dinners may also be an option. Currently, the business is integrating a more developed breakfast menu into their repertoire.
“We will continue to bring people down to the restaurant and to get them excited about coming down to the riverfront,” Leann says.
To learn more about this trendy coffee and wine spot in Spencer, Iowa, visit The Bear’s website at www.thebearinspencer.com or find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheBearCoffeehouseAndWineBar?fref=ts.