Living in Society Social Commentary

We’re Going Home — Hamburg Inn No. 2

Hamburg InnWith yesterday’s announcement Hamburg Inn No. 2 is being sold by 68 year-old David Panther, another chapter in the long exodus of sixty-somethings from Iowa City’s public stage is closing.

With growth and a burgeoning new population, long time aspects of Iowa City iconography have changed and are changing. Old is giving way to new.

I more miss Hamburg Inn No. 1 on Iowa Avenue than any changes at No. 2 on Linn might bring. Arriving in Iowa City in 1970 to attend college, I had a notion I could experience every business and cultural institution in town and become a part of city social life. Hamburg Inn No. 1 was part of that. Like so many others, I left after graduation from the university, but remember fondly what the city was then.

My recent awareness of the exodus of sixty-somethings began with closure of Murphy Brookfield Books and the retirement of Riverside Theatre co-founders Ron Clark and Jodi Hovland. Hamburg Inn is another among many changes from what Iowa City grew up to be after the 1960s. Some businesses, like The Mill, made a successful transition. Others have not.

Why should we care? After all, change is the only constant in a transient city like Iowa City. It is made so by the University of Iowa: a primary driver of almost everything. It is partly nostalgia driven by personal memories and change in the world which increase in importance as we near the end of life’s span. There’s little reason to cling to the past instead of embracing the new. Opportunity also belongs mostly to the young, so some of us are going home.

I’ve never eaten a pie shake at Hamburg Inn, and until recently wasn’t aware they served such a dessert. It has been breakfast with our daughter or a friend that drew me there of late. The last political event I attended at the Hamburg Inn was with Chet Culver during his last campaign. Culver didn’t appear to have a clue how to get re-elected and the stop did little to enhance his chances.

Life will continue with the best intentions, which is what I’m reading in the news. The operation will continue at Hamburg Inn No. 2 and importantly, people will keep their jobs. I read Panther will be retained by the new owners for a year as a consultant. According to the Warren Buffett playbook for business acquisition retaining current managers is important to a smooth and profitable transition. I wish everyone well.

Details of the sale aren’t quite worked out, according to news reports. We should embrace the change and give the new owners a chance or two as they continue the effort in its new form. If new management focuses on the quality of food and customer service they should be alright. A different, and new chapter in the life of an aging Iowa City scene being reborn.