Farley bar reopens after downtown fire

FARLEY, Iowa — Jacob Schroeder opened Bill’s Tap in Farley on Wednesday for the first time since a fire earlier in the month nearly engulfed his family business.

With wall shelves devoid of liquor bottles and no food yet, he didn’t know what interest residents would have in stopping by. But sure enough, by the early afternoon, many already had.

“It’s great to have this place back,” said Bill Einwalter, a lifelong Farley resident.

On May 6, Schroeder awakened in his apartment above the bar to the barking of his dog and the smell of smoke.

Rising from his bed, he soon was confronted by his uncle, a police officer, who ordered him to get outside.

Schroeder hurried down the stairs of Bill’s Tap, located at 110 First St. N., and burst outside to see a horrible sight for both himself and the community.

The town’s longtime grocery store, Greenwood’s Grocery, which stands directly adjacent to Bill’s Tap, was on fire.

“It hurt to see it,” Schroeder said. “That place is important for a lot of people.”

Also stressful was the fire’s proximity to Bill’s Tap. Schroeder’s bar has been under the ownership of his family since it was opened by his grandfather in 1959.

The fire spreading to the bar would have meant more than just losing his business. It would have meant losing a piece of family history.

“I could have just opened back up in a new building, but that wouldn’t be the same,” Schroeder said.

He said it is thanks to the efforts of Farley firefighters and those from other area departments that Bill’s Tap was saved, though the structure suffered significant smoke damage.

Initially, Schroeder believed Bill’s Tap would remain closed for the rest of the month. The smoke damage forced him to throw out 172 bottles of liquor, all of the food, beer and some tables and chairs.

Everything on the second floor, where Schroeder had made his home since November, was a total loss.

However, Schroeder said he was able to quickly get the store cleaned and get a shipment of drinks in. Schroeder said he is pleased with how quickly Bill’s Tap has resurrected.

“I’m glad things came back quicker than I thought,” Schroeder said. “I thought it was going to take longer.”

While Bill’s Tap has returned, the fate of Greenwood’s Grocery remains uncertain. The grocery store and apartments located above it were a total loss in the fire, and on Wednesday, the store remained lifeless with blackened-out windows.

Owner Tim Greenwood could not be reached for comment, but Schroeder said his conversations with the grocery store’s owner indicate that a decision has not yet been made on whether Greenwood’s will return.

“I talked with him, and he said things are up in the air,” Schroeder said.

Mayor Jay Hefel also said he was told by Greenwood that a decision had not been made yet.

“Right now, they are just waiting on insurance before making any decision,” Hefel said. “They are in limbo right now.”

For now, though, Hefel said the community can celebrate the return of one of its iconic local businesses.

“It’s really great to see Bill’s Tap is back open,” he said. “That is a huge positive for them and the community.”