Businesses bringing new life to Rock Island’s College Hill District

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Rock Island's College Hill District is seeing new life, as more than a dozen businesses have opened in the neighborhood over the past five years.

Friday, Cool Beanz Coffee House celebrated its fifth anniversary with a ribbon cutting. Started by Annette Zapolis back in 2009, the shop on the corner of 14th Avenue and 30th Street has grown into a neighborhood staple.

"Sometimes I feel like it's been five years, and sometimes I feel like it was just yesterday that we opened," said Zapolis.

Since Cool Beanz first opened, the entire College Hill District has seen growth as well. In 2011, an official business community was founded, and over the past five years, at least 13 new businesses have opened in the neighborhood.

"All of those have just been a benefit to the community here, building kind of a neighborhood spirit and hopefully helping Augustana students have another home base," said Zapolis.

One of those recent arrivals is Against the Grain, an ale house and nano-brewery that opened just two years ago. Owner Rich Nunez said it was actually City staff that pushed him to look into opening in the area.

"There's a lot of emphasis now with the City, trying to push a lot more business into this area, so I couldn't be happier that I found my way here," said Nunez.

Nunez said the neighborhood's 'mom and pop' feel, the foot traffic and focus on redevelopment all drew him to College Hill.

"So far, so good," he said.

And even for families like the Requet's, who have been affiliated with the area for nearly four decades, coming back to the neighborhood was an easy decision.

About three years ago, the family opened Gendler's Wine and Spirits, the Black Ram restaurant, and the Grotto Bar and Grille.

"A lot more people are coming up into the area; there's a lot more youth. I think it seems to be vibrant, lot of improvements to the facilities around here," said Benjamin Requet.

Saturday, yet another new College Hill business will celebrate its grand opening. Rolling Smoke barbeque will operate out of the Kavanuagh's Hilltop kitchen, and also offer catering and carryout.

A party featuring live music and specials begins at 7 p.m.

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