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A changeover is brewing as Iowa City's Dash closes, Tru Coffee prepares to open


After two years, Dash Coffee Roasters is closing its Iowa City location. 

But the smell of coffee isn't leaving the block for long, with two former employees announcing plans to open a new shop. 

"We’ve just made a decision that it is best for Dash to simplify," said coffee shop owner Rebecca Weinbrenner. 

Weinbrenner, 35, opened Dash's Cedar Rapids 3½ years ago and expanded into Iowa City's Northside Marketplace with a glass-and-steel location at the corner of Bloomington and Linn streets. When the new location opened in 2019, the Press-Citizen reported that even with a soft open, Weinbrenner claimed she was bringing in the same level of profit she saw at her Cedar Rapids spot after six months.

Weinbrenner said "downsizing" was a personal choice, a chance to focus attention on the Cedar Rapids location. She said splitting her attention didn't enable her to focus on the store and the community around it.

Dash Iowa City will close its doors May 22.

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But Haley Kesterson and Tucker Shepard, two former Dash employees, are stepping up to keep the coffee pot on. While not immediately available for comment, they posted on Instagram that Tru Coffee would open June 1.

"We are so thankful for the foundation that has been set and the community that has been built through (Dash Coffee). We were just two confused little baristas when we first started working for them a few years ago, so we are over the moon to be able to have this opportunity to open Tru Coffee and serve the community," the couple wrote in Tru's first Instagram post.

In a market like Iowa City's, Weinbrenner said businesses have to be prepared for the large fluctuations in population due to the ebb and flow of students. 

"It makes a huge difference. Sixty to 70% of our daily guests are students," she said.

That dropoff is noticeable when dorms close or schools are out of session. But being on the edge of the Northside neighborhood, she said focusing on building ties with returning customers helps maintain consistent business.

"At the location, you are able to have more of a community presence than a lot of downtown business can. A deep relationship," she said. "Particularly during this period, the personal touch, the relationship helped us survive the way we did. Being split between two stores took away from that."

Zachary Oren Smith writes about government, growth and development for the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Reach him at zsmith@press-citizen.com, at 319 -339-7354 or on Twitter via @ZacharyOS.