The Jitney opens for business

Posted January 23, 2013 at 10:00 am

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PHOTO: The Jitney Wine Bar is located along E. First Street here in Monticello, between Superior Appliance and The Styling Barn. With table seating, a lengthy bar and an outdoor patio, there is plenty of space to come and relax and a enjoy a  glass of wine, a beer or a mixed cocktail. (Photo by Kim Brooks)

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PHOTO: Owners of the Jitney, Angus and Katie Farrowe and Erin Danneman relax inside their new bar at a table built for three. After months of hard work and remodeling, The Jitney is now open for business, six days a week. (Photo by Kim Brooks)


By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

A lot of time and hard work has finally paid off… The Jitney Wine Bar is open for business!

Located in downtown Monticello along E. First Street (between Superior Appliance and The Styling Barn), The Jitney has a unique look all its own. With an outdoor patio area, it offers a relaxing atmosphere inside and out.

Owned and operated by Erin Danneman and Katie and Angus Farrowe, it was a dream that has finally come true.

For childhood friends, Erin and Katie, this establishment is “a collection of all of our passions put together,” as Erin described it. Coming from Los Angeles and Chicago, the gals said The Jitney is exactly the type of establishment you would see in larger cities.

So in November 2011, Erin and Katie started talking about opening their own bar.

“We put our creative minds together,” Katie said. With the Erin and Katie’s expertise in wine and cheese and Angus’ knowledge of beers, they put their heads together.

“It’s the product of our experience in restaurants and of all the bars we’ve been to over the years,” described Angus.

They offer 30-plus choices of wine and over 40 different beers. They also serve freshly made cocktails and martinis (no mixes), including the owner’s favorite, signature drinks and seasonal delights. Their selections originate from all over the world.

Stepping into The Jitney, it’s hard to imagine a different location. The owners said the original stonewall sold them on this downtown building right off the bat. The building is owned by Doug Herman. A lot of work went into the remodel before the bar could open for business.

Herman said, “The Jitney space has been an on-again-off-again renovation (project) for many years since the Penny Pincher moved up the street.”

Angus recalled, “It was just a raw shell before any major work started in mid-summer.”

Early on, the improvements included updated services, a new HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system, a new roof, gutter and downspout system.

Herman noted the more recent renovations included removing multiple layers of flooring, removing lathe and plaster on the walls, removing and replacing damaged tin ceiling tiles, sanding and seal-coating the original wood floor, sealing the limestone walls, building new interior walls, new plumbing, painting, and, the most visible improvement, the new outdoor patio area.

“A lot of bars in L.A. and Chicago have outdoor patios where people like to sit and enjoy a beer or a glass of wine,” Erin said.

“We thought the people of Monticello should have the same opportunity,” added Katie.

Not wanting to rush into an opening too soon, Erin and Katie said they knew a project like this would take some time.

“We wanted it done right so it truly could be an experience for our guests,” said Erin.

Some of the unique, one-of-a-kind features patrons will see inside include the tables, made by Chapman Brothers Export. Each table, whether it sits two, three or four people, is made out of cross sections of various types of trees. Chapman Brothers Export also designed the top of the bar, a scaled-down replica of the railroad system that went through Monticello. The bar was trimmed and finished by New Age Construction, using antique barn wood.

So why a railroad theme? The “jitney” actually refers to the train that came into Monticello years and years ago. Erin and Katie did a lot of research into the meaning and wanted to carry that history throughout their bar.

“It has a rustic-modern look,” described Erin. She said they want their customers to know The Jitney is not a fancy establishment, but inviting and relaxing.

Katie added, “It’s a warm and welcoming environment. We want everyone to be able to come and sit down, relax and enjoy a glass of wine or a cold beer or a cocktail.”

Angus said, “Through its atmosphere, a bar should create a moment for its patrons, with every visit time should fade into the background.”

Beverages are not the only items on the menu at The Jitney. What wine bar wouldn’t be complete without cheeses and meats to tap off the experience?

The Jitney gets all of its meat selections from La Quercia, out of Norwalk, Iowa. Angus, who has much expertise in the kitchen, said they sell meats from Iowa-raised pigs. Their meats are cured; some are even organic as well.

“They are widely considered one of the top cured meat producers in the world,” marveled Angus. “Their meat takes people’s taste buds for a ride!”

Erin said they are all “foodies,” so it’s a passion for them to know which cheeses and meats go well with certain beers and wines.

Working with local businesses, The Jitney also offers homemade breads from Baked. Cupcake Bakery/Café, also in Monticello.

“Meats, cheeses, breads are staples at a lot of bars we’ve been to,” Erin said of their decision to offer light food choices to complement any drink.

Their cheese and meat trays are priced per order, depending on your selection. They have 13 different varieties of cheeses and five types of meats, in addition to smoked salmon and duck pate.

In describing their drink options, the owners said they have an “eclectic list” to choose from. Their beer and wine distributors commented on how impressed they were with their orders. Erin said they wanted to buy selections that are not easily accessible. They also threw in their own favorites as well.

“There are also some great wines and beers available right here in Iowa,” Angus said. “We want a selection that represents the absolute best.”

As some options are seasonal, The Jitney will be replacing certain wines and beers with others that become available. They sell wine by the glass and bottle, and beer by the bottle and on tap.

Down the road, they hope to offer beer and wine tastings. By early Spring, they also look to bring in live musical entertainment. The Jitney is also available for special gatherings and parties.

“We would like to attract more business to Monticello. It’s a wonderful town,” said Katie.

Erin said, “I think people are really excited to embark on this new adventure with us.”

Aside from all of the work by building owner Doug Herman and Chapman Brothers Export, other local contractors who helped bring The Jitney to life included: New Age Construction, Randy Steiner, Mike Cox, Next Generation Plumbing, Dean Stevens, Andy Manternach Electric, McDermott Concrete, Welter Storage Equipment Company, Spahn & Rose and Precision Frame & Finish. The Jitney would like to thank all of the above for their amazing and hard work!

The Jitney officially opened for business on Tuesday, Jan. 22. They will be open six days a week: 3 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. They will be closed on Mondays, with hours subject to change. You can call them at 319-465-7094.

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PHOTO: Inside The Jitney Wine Bar, the unique tables are made out of cross sections of logs. There is enough seating for 75 people, including the bar (not pictured). The original stonewall also adds character to the establishment. (Photo by Kim Brooks)