Longtime Dubuque pizza restaurant moving to rural Peosta in place of another eatery

PEOSTA, Iowa — A staple Dubuque pizza restaurant is moving to a new home outside of Peosta, taking over the location of another popular eatery.

The owners of Town Clock Inn will open a new physical location at 7653 Old Highway Road, where Junction 21 Restaurant and Bar currently resides. Junction 21 will close on Saturday, May 22.

Town Clock Inn co-owner Irene Nelson said she hopes the new location will open its doors by the first or second week of August. A new Town Clock Inn logo, which alludes to the new Old Highway Road location, was posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page this week.

Even with the move away from its namesake downtown edifice, the Town Clock Inn name will remain, as well as the pizza recipe that has been used for more than 50 years.

“It’s just all super exciting,” Nelson said.

The closure of Town Clock Inn’s Dubuque Main Street location was announced April 29. The restaurant had been operating in that location since 1970 and has been owned by the same family for three generations.

Nelson previously told the Telegraph Herald that the space had gotten “simply too big” for her and Scott, her husband and co-owner, to operate alone. The restaurant suffered a lack of staffing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Nelsons are running things by themselves.

Irene Nelson said they will do some work before opening at the new location, including adding on to the existing deck to expand outdoor dining options. She also said they will reconfigure the space to avoid needing many staff members right away.

“If we eventually find enough staff, that’s fine, but we want to make it so it’s more self-help where people can pick up their food at a window,” she said. “We want to concentrate on employing good cooks.”

Nelson added that she is excited about having a parking lot, something their Main Street location never had. She added that they will also add Sunday brunch at the new spot, which will include mimosas and bloody marys.

She added that there is only nine miles between the former and new Town Clock Inn locations. They were more focused on finding a new location than what city the restaurant was in, she said, though they did make offers to three other spots in Dubuque.

“We’re sad,” Nelson said of leaving the old spot. “Even the walls in the restaurant my husband’s grandparents put up. It’s sad to move away from that and all the history.”

However, she added the restaurant will continue to be part of history with its location on the Historic U.S. Route 20, which runs more than 3,000 miles across the country. The Historic Route 20 Association will list Town Clock Inn as a stop along the route, Nelson said.

The previous restaurant along the route, Junction 21, will close its doors this weekend to give the Nelsons time to configure the space to their liking, Junction 21 co-owner Josh Manders said.

Manders and co-owner Navin Valentin have been operating the restaurant since 2018, though different owners began Junction 21 in 2010.

Due to other full-time jobs and other commitments in their personal lives, Manders said the pair decided to put Junction 21 up for sale and were set to close at the end of April. However, they reversed the decision after a potential buyer backed out, leaving the restaurant up for sale until Town Clock Inn came along.

Manders said he and his co-owner don’t have any current plans to re-enter the restaurant industry, though he hasn’t ruled it out completely. He said they have enjoyed getting to know restaurant regulars throughout the years and were active in giving back to the community.

“You get to know a lot about (the regulars),” he said. “On the opposite hand, that made it the hardest decision to close. But now knowing another business is coming in that will appreciate them just as much makes it easier.”

Since the Nelsons will now focus on the new location and making frozen pizzas for Hartig Drug, the future of the Town Clock Inn food truck is uncertain.

Nelson said the truck premiered last fall as a way to serve customers during COVID-19, and the restaurant has been operating out of the truck since closing the Dubuque location.

“We love doing it,” she said. “It’s been fun, but we can’t do everything.”