Mar 17, 2013

Tour Des Moines

Iowa holds 20 million hogs, 3 million humans, 92 thousand family farms and 30,000,000 acres of corn and soybeans.  Lest you believe we are exclusively red in the neck, biggish city culture's on tap if you want some. 

Pigtails' mom is feeling well lately, so daughter has been spending most weekends with her.  This opened a pocket of playtime, Curls and I did Tour Des Moines yesterday to visit small businesses we've had eyes on.

Started with Frenching a flask of beans roasted by a local barista a few blocks from my house.  I'd like to try volcano grown Kona beans sometime, but is the taste worth the $dough$?

Recharged the Nikon and stuck the GoPro.

Downtown Des Moines is best served from the south.  We wove around the Patty's Day Parade that was teed up, towards an architectural salvage/picker company.

West End Architectural Salvage

Remember when West End made a table from barnboards for my kitchen reboot?

They've finally been noticed.

Owner Don and his crew are hamming it on a multi-week series playing now on HGTV.  He said it's been pandemonium since the show aired.  3K people walked his brick warehouse last week and the e-mail basket is filled with requests to build pieces people saw on the tube.

I've been busy these days, banging on the keyboard like a crazed baboon at work writing software, helping Pigtails memorize the 50 states and capitals for her final test at school, cooking and maintaining the ranch, running four dozen miles a week for pacing duties at the Fargo marathon.  That's all just a sorry bag of excuses for why I've made no progress on fixing my fireplace

You know where this one is headed.  West End is skilled at completing the package on room refinishes.  Sketching the design, sourcing materials and building furniture from scratch.  I showed Don the fireplace post and said it's important to maintain the mid-century feel of my living room.

He paused for a moment to think through a plan for the mantel and shelves.
His hand blurred.
60 seconds later his brain was dumped to paper.

Going from top to bottom, left to right, he proposed:
  • Nuke the existing shelves.
  • Build a sheet of antique painted copper or tin and install on the back wall on both sides of the bookcases.  Removable so it's quick 'n easy to bolt on or off. 
  • In front of the tin backsplash, build adjustable floating shelves that can be notched at any height. 
  • Create a new mantel out of 1940s gymnasium flooring or something similar, install it high enough to address the frugly flesh colored vents and hide them beneath or cover completely.
  • Remove the brass fireplace surround and existing lower cabinets.

  • In place of the lower cabinets, West End builds slide-out nesting tables.  They'd be the same height and depth as the existing cabinets, open faced, and can be pulled out to, say, use one as a quick laptop office and the other for maybe a board game table.  He showed me a couple examples of nesting tables in his shop, I like the idea of this modular approach.  It does away with the existing kitchen-looking boxes and replaces with an open, flexible solution.
What do you think?

We roamed the multi-story for an hour.  Curls liked the silver bracelets fashioned from old silverware, their metal splines curved into circles. 

I fancied these 300-year-old Indonesian ox cart wagon wheels.  You can PayPal me:

Out back are build-to-order projects for customers.  Hammered copper mirror frames, kitchen sideboards topped with black slate from discarded billiard tables, abandoned metal U.S. Postal Service PO boxes remixed into wall shelves.  Repurposing junk into creations with hardy character, me likes.

Up front are tables for relaxing and chewing the cud over a cup of java.  They host wedding parties and Bar Mitzvahs here.  Everything's for sale, the tables, stools, take it home if you like it.

Rad water closets.

Down in the dungeon is the workshop where every piece is built from scratch by hand.

Need a light?

Almost went for a pair of these swivel stools for the kitchen.  The heavy cast iron base and grainy wood top align well with the table.

A nickle each, how thrifty.

Five floors of stuff.

Dorothea's Closet Vintage
Curls runs downtown over lunch and has noticed a vintage clothing store with a 1950s June Cleaver dress in the window calling out to her.  People that work downtown on weekdays don't tend to shop downtown that often.  We go to work, go home, the end.  It took us awhile to figure out the name of the place housing the green dress, Google showed Dorothea's Closet opened at noon for a few hours.  Better take care of the itch.

The green on the right is the one she's noticed for weeks on her runs.

Inside were tutu lampshades and retro dresses everywhere, I had to keep my man card intact and get the heck out of there.

She tried on the Cleaver dress and another, I stepped out next door to the metal sculpture works, blowtorches baby!

Bearden Sculpture

The place next door I'd glanced at daily on lunch runs, but didn't know anything about it.  A spindly praying mantis stared out the window, a loud electric guitar played soul-style on the turntable as James cut steel plates with a hot torch.  He nodded, I asked what kind of project was he's working, he's welding together an abstract rhino for the Blank Park Zoo and their new rhino exhibit coming this spring.

Patty Parade
I walked a block down to the parade route for 5 minutes to watch adults dressed like the Lucky Charms leprechaun put one down and stagger around.

I hope he's wearing underpants underneath that kilt.

Gong Fu Teahouse
My frou-frou stash is empty, we drove over to Gong Fu in the East Village to take care of that.  Curls tried cinnamon spiced black tea, I restocked oolong and South African rooibos.

B&B Deli

Slicing cows since 1922, B&B Deli has been on my radar for several years.  We finally marked it off the list this weekend.

The Brooks family is on their 5th generation at the deli.  It began as a meat house, but branched out with a lunch menu when the butchers began making sandwiches for themselves, and hungry customers asked for a bite.  Their killer subs and 1/3 pound burgers are popular and win multiple "best of" contests and played on the Food Network and Travel Channel.

Curls ordered a small tenderloin, I went all in on the famous Dad’s Killer sandwich:  roast beef, turkey breast, smoked ham, corned beef, pepper cheese, Swiss cheese, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, Kosher pickles, mustard, Miracle Whip, Tuscan Italian dressing on an Italian hoagie roll with a side of heart attack.

Graziano's Italian Grocery
Our final stop was Graziano's.  I bagged their fresh mixed seasonings, green olives, spicy sausage and enough toppings for several pizza pies.

Sausage veg' capped with aged provolone for dinner, wish you could smell it.

Ran 12 miles before dinner and was parched.

That's all.  See, no pigs.



  1. West End looks like a really cool & inspiring place. Good ideas for your fireplace update. Like the other Des Moines stops too!

    1. Thanks, drop through DSM if you are ever in the area, I think you'd like what you see.

  2. Anonymous3/17/2013

    Awesome post! I have been to Des Moines once, years ago. My only memory is of how absolutely nasty the motel was. College mock trial team budget left us feeling riped off with the whole experience. I'll add a trip back to my bucket list. Check out these groovy places you mention. Do tell... did curls get the dress? It is super cute! Or maybe trying it on scratched her itch and she can live without it.

    1. Oh crud, you stayed at a wormy Red Roof Inn or something. There's plenty more to see, we'll do another tour in the coming weeks. La Mie bakery is worth a stop.

      The green dress was $200 and Curls didn't like how it looked on her. The yellow dress she tried on was $300, youcher. #purchaseyeahright

    2. Anonymous3/19/2013

      What the heckaba? Did June Cleaver actually wear that dress?

  3. Anonymous3/18/2013

    Beard......Curls is looking mighty cute! How do you refrain from marrying that girl?

    1. You make it sound easy, plus I leave the lid up sometimes.


    You probably have come across this, but it is pretty funny, and very enjoyable for an Iowa native. Put together by a kid I grew up with in Mt Carmel, IA. Also enjoy "Hawkeye Nice" and "Cyclone Nice" (user beware: there are some swear words, so watch at home!)

    1. Thanks for the link-up, probably first time playing for some of the B&P readers here.

  5. Anonymous3/18/2013

    Ha! I watched some of the episodes over the weekend and wondered if this was the same place that did your table and you talked about doing the fireplace mantel and shelves from!

    Loved the show and wished I had the extra cash to buy one of their pieces...

    Love the idea of the copper behind and the floating shelves. And also A good idea to raise the mantel and hide the vents. I presume the mantel would have gaps underneath to let the air in?

    1. I think the vents are probably going to be too high to cover with a raised mantel like we planned, so will have to come up with a new approach. The vents only pass a little bit of passive heat when the fireplace is lit, so I could probably remove them but would need to brick over the gap. Let me know if you have other ideas on this one.

    2. Anonymous3/19/2013

      Maybe extend the copper/tin idea to wrap the top of the fireplace? That wouldnt involve to much damage to the fireplace brick. You could easily insert the bolts for holding the copper in first into the mortar joints. And with with the new wood mantel extending all the way acrosss it makes a nice transition to the brick below.

    3. Are you thinking install tin over the brick above the mantel, below or both? Above would cover the vents, which would be a good thing.

    4. Anonymous3/19/2013

      Above the mantel. It would then tie in with the book areas which you were thinking of adding copper/tin to. Below also might be nice but is harder to do with the opening for the actual fireplace and hearth. That and I think it might be to much for the rest of the room. I would however paint or preferably remove the surround.

    5. I'm with you, Curls and I were discussing a similar approach. How much of the top in tin, all or some? Might be too much to cover the entire top, but partial up there might look odd and incomplete.

    6. Anonymous3/20/2013

      I think it would have to be all or it would look odd or incomplete. To keep the cost down you could maybe just add a band above the mantel that would cover the vents and still tie in with behind the shelves. The band also could have a design in it like a wave or city silhouette etc. Something to make it look artistic rather than just a band across.

      Another option would be to look into using old tin ceiling tiles. One of their shows on HGTV used old tiles to cover one wall and it might work on the fireplace also. Problem with that is attaching it to the fireplace itself.

      Just some thoughts…:)

  6. Wish there was a LIKE button for this :) :)

    1. This was supposed to be under this comment...

      Beard......Curls is looking mighty cute! How do you refrain from marrying that girl

    2. Who's on first?

  7. Very cool- I've never been to Des Moines- makes me want to visit!

    1. Hopefully you'll have a chance to visit Iowa. Besides Des Moines some good stops include Pella (Dutch architecture and people), Amana Colonies (German, lots of delicious food), Dubuque (Mississippi river town) and Iowa City.

  8. Anonymous3/25/2013

    Love some B&B


Thanks for the note, check back for my response!