Biz Buzz: Local photographer captures memories; area boutique expands; restaurants struggle to adapt

Haley Kolle, of Haley Marie Photography, takes photos of the Weber family on Friday outside their home in Asbury, Iowa. PHOTO CREDIT: EILEEN MESLAR

Biz Buzz shares business tidbits from around the tri-states. This week, we highlight developments in Dubuque and Farley, Iowa.

A local photographer is keeping her distance — and capturing memories — all at once.

Dubuque resident Haley Kolle is embracing a national trend called The Front Steps Project, which aims to connect photographers and families in the midst of the global COVID-19 outbreak.

Over the past two weekends, Kolle has invited dozens of families to come out to the front porch or doorstep of their homes and take part in a brief photography session.

“It’s a simple thing, but I hope it brings light into people’s lives,” Kolle said. “This is a sad and scary time. Hopefully, these sessions give people something to look forward to. It is an excuse to get ready and come outside.”

Kolle, who owns Haley Marie Photography, is not charging clients for the sessions. Instead, she is encouraging all participants to “pay it forward” by donating to a local charity or doing something else to help out the community.

Asbury, Iowa, resident Ashlee Weber is among the local clients who took part in The Front Steps Project. Weber, her husband and their two young children emerged from their home late Friday afternoon while Kolle visited and took photos — all while maintaining a recommended distance of six feet.

“We’ve been stuck in the house, and it was nice to get out,” Weber said. “I think, years from now, we’ll look back on this and realize we were still smiling through everything that was going on.”

Kolle said she has long had a passion for photography.

She launched Haley Marie Photography in 2015, around the time that she had her first child. The business specializes in family, children and wedding photography — often taking pictures in local parks or in a studio set up in the basement of Kolle’s Dubuque home.

While COVID-19 has taken these standard options off the table, The Front Steps Project is allowing Kolle to continue utilizing her talents.

Haley Marie Photography can be reached at 563-564-7216.

BOUTIQUE EXPANDS

Months after opening as an online enterprise, a Farley, Iowa, boutique is preparing to open a brick-and-mortar location.

WillowWinn Boutique is planning to open a new location at 7477 Wieferich Road in early May, according to owner Lindsay Ahmann.

The boutique — named after Ahmann’s dogs, Willow and Winnie — launched in November.

“We planned on being online-only, but then it blossomed into something more,” Ahmann said.

WillowWinn sells clothing, jewelry, bags and other accessories for women of all ages. In recent months, the boutique has gained traction with its live online sales on Thursday nights, during which local models show off the items and customers can purchase them in real-time.

Ahmann has been pleasantly surprised by how the community has embraced the new business.

“The outpouring of support has been amazing,” Ahmann said. “It’s allowed us to go from nothing to where we are now. “

WillowWinn’s brick-and-mortar location was initially slated to open in early April, but concerns about COVID-19 have pushed that date back by a month. Ahmann said the store will at first be open Thursdays through Sundays.

Residents can shop online by visiting WillowWinnBoutique.com or visiting Facebook.com/WillowWinnBoutique.

RESTAURANT INDUSTRY HIT

Iowa restaurant and bar owners have seen dramatic revenue drops after government mandates forced the temporary suspension of on-premise food and beverage service.

A report from the Iowa Restaurant Association projected that revenues have declined 84% due to recent industry changes brought about by the spread of COVID-19.

The association’s report is based on a survey completed by 670 bar and restaurant operators throughout Iowa.

The Iowa Restaurant Association found that 65% of restaurants are attempting to offer some carryout or delivery option. Even so, 82% of restaurants and bars have laid off employees.

In a press release issued by the association, President and CEO Jessica Dunker indicated that as many of 20% of restaurants may struggle to stay afloat and reopen once restrictions are lifted.

“The picture is grim,” Dunker said.

She emphasized the importance of allowing restaurants to continue offering carryout services.

“I can’t imagine what would have happened to grocery stores if the restaurants hadn’t been allowed to provide carryout,” said Dunker. “They would have been even more overwhelmed.”