HAWKEYE– The rural couple behind new destination bar “Country Chrome,” say they were striving to create a destination for motorcycle enthusiasts and all who enjoy cold refreshments in a scenic setting.
Mark and Melanie Jencks say that before they met and married, they each had visions of running a bar some day. “We looked at empty storefronts in Hawkeye, but we also went by this place all the time,” says Melanie, describing what was long known as the McLeish place on Highway 18. Located eleven-and-a-half miles west of West Union, and nine miles east of Fredericksburg, the Jenckses figure their location is ideal, being situated right along a busy state highway.
“Mark likes to fix things up, as do I,” Melanie explains. “We’d both also noticed the increased traffic since they resurfaced the highway, especially by ‘bikes’.” The couple took down one building, but hopes to make use of most of the other out-buildings on the site. They cut a hole in the milk house and made a drop-down window from which drinks are served. They also cut through a wall of the milking parlor to offer access to a roofed area in case of rain. A pergola over the open-air dining area offers shade and the cool breezes the rural Hawkeye area is known for.
In fact, Mark Jencks constructed the bar to look south, with a view of Hawkeye’s lush countryside and almost-famous wind turbines towering over fields of corn and soybeans. He recycled wood from the sides of the barn to construct the bar, and the couple picked up bar stools, old patio tables, and chairs here and there.
Family members helped put up the pergola, and Mark’s mom, Sandy Jencks offered help with the landscaping. Having bought his first Harley Davidson motorcycle in 2008, Mark says the couple decided to cater to motorcycle enthusiasts, but their clientele includes many others as well.
“We decided on a vintage country theme and looked for items to become part of the decor, for the last year,” Melanie explains. One of their favorite items is ‘Chief Hawkeye,’ a mannequin with braided hair who has become a centerpiece on a bench at Iowa Country Chrome. The full-size, lifelike mannequin intrigues visitors enough that many want to have their photo with the Chief. The Jenckses say the feature has been so popular they hope to add other attractions for photo-ops. One idea is to create a parody of the Grant Wood classic, ‘American Gothic.’
Other conversation starters include the stanchions still in place inside the old milking parlor, last used around 2002. Someday, if free time from their other occupations allows, the couple might make use of a wood bar and tongue and groove wood flooring purchased as salvage items from an Outback Steakhouse.
Among the visitors to Country Chrome while this blogger was visiting, was a couple passing through from Georgia on their way to a family reunion.
“We’d like to be a destination for wedding receptions, outdoor parties, anniversary celebrations, car shows, poker runs and memorial motorbike rides,” says Melanie. Birthday celebrations are encouraged, and even though there’s always good music emanating from the speakers, the Jenckses welcome performances by local bands. Wine festivals/tastings and class reunions are other ideas the couple would entertain.
A celebrity bartender night to benefit the Hawkeye Fire Department is in the works, along with adoption events to benefit the area humane society. Before opening day, the couple had the place rewired, installed a walk-in cooler, built a retaining wall, and poured a lot of concrete. They even had exterminator Dion Bumgardner give the place a once-over. Artist Marlene Woodson painted two fat pigs on old barn boards and some of Melanie’s favorite collectibles can be found in a feed bunk that’s viewable by passers-by.
Country Chrome is open mid-May through October, Thursdays through Sundays. Their hours are:
- Thursday: 4-9pm
- Friday 1-10pm
- Saturday 11-10pm
- Sunday 11-9pm