West Branch's historic Main Street is a charming and quaint business district located just off I-80 at exit 254 (just 6 miles from Iowa City). It's home to unique small businesses and boasts an abundance of Iowa history. There's plenty to eat, shop & explore in West Branch but what makes it extra special is the people you'll meet here.
West Branch Community Development Group is pleased to highlight our local businesses with the Meet Us on Main Street series featuring Q&A's with business owners that make our Main Street so special. Today, it's our pleasure to lift up Mike Jones! Mike is the owner of The Downunder, a cozy brewpub set in the unique cellar-style basement of the Hoover House, just steps from the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. Here's our Q&A with Mike:
Where can we find you? The Downunder is located at 102 W. Main Street in West Branch, in the lower level of the Hoover House and historic Crook's Hotel. The building was built in 1870 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Tues-Thurs 3pm-10pm
What motivated you to start your business? In the mid 90’s when there was a cook-your-own steak restaurant (L.B. Steakhouse) in the Hoover House, the owners had a lower-level basement with a finished bar area. They were not using it so they asked me to open and manage it... I named it “The Downunder”.
Fast forward to 2015 and since I was familiar with the potential for success at that location, the current owner of the Hoover House asked me if I would consider resurrecting the Downunder bar. It was a little different this time around since the space was unfinished and being used for storage with no plumbing, electricity, ceilings, bathroom, or kitchen. It was going to be a lot of work but I knew I could make it mine. The remodel took about 6 months – a lot longer than had been anticipated.
How long have you been operating? We opened after the massive remodel in April 2016.
What inspires your work and what sets your business apart? Our friendly, welcoming atmosphere truly sets us apart from any bar or restaurant in the area. Located in the basement of a turn of the century building built in the late 1800’s, with interior walls that are the original limestone and an enormous stone fireplace that keeps the entire bar cozy and warm in the winter months.
Describe the products/services you offer. The bar features local craft brews as well as domestic. Our menu is extensive and we are proud that we don’t deep fry anything. Our food is cooked in 2 commercial air fryers so, no grease!
What are a few of your top-selling items? Our unique hot wings tossed in our homemade maple hot sauce are truly a rare find! Another delicious option is our French Dip Au Jus on our homemade bread, or our hot and fresh hand-made paninis.
Fun Fact: We never miss a Hawkeye game!
Meet Us on Main Street to visit with Mike as you Eat, Shop, Explore at Exit 254!