Loven is on a mission to keep Guttenberg beautiful

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Juanita Loven is on a mission to "Keep Guttenberg Beautiful." The 85-year-old spirited volunteer can be found pushing her cart of cleaning and weeding supplies in an effort to spruce up Guttenberg's historic downtown district. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

What makes one small town different from another? Over and over again you will find that it is the community's people — especially those who volunteer their time and talents.  

Juanita Loven, Guttenberg transplant, business owner/entrepreneur, philanthropist and spirited volunteer, is one of those people. Juanita, and her husband, Russell, moved to Guttenberg in 1995. The couple met and fell in love while attending Luther College in Decorah. They have four children, 11 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren to date.

An adult learner

After a long absence Juanita returned to Luther College to finish her degree. She shared, "After staying home for 13 years I went back to work at Luther as a secretary for the Department of Nursing. Luther allows full-time employees to take a free class a semester, which I did. When our youngest child graduated from Luther in 1985, I was the only one in our family without a degree. So I took a leave of absence, finished my remaining 18 credits, and graduated in 1986 with a major in communications with an emphasis on marketing and public relations — exactly 30 years later than the people I started Luther with. I continue to celebrate with the Class of 1956 rather than the Class of 1986!"

Old World Inn and Restaurant

After earning her degree, Juanita was immediately contacted by two Spillville entrepreneurs working on a grant to restore an 1871 building. "They needed someone to commit to renting. During a correspondence course I had to write/create a phantom business plan. As it turned out, this was the business I said 'yes' to starting from scratch. I opened The Old World Inn and Restaurant on April 1, 1987. The Czechoslovakian restaurant was on the ground level with lodging upstairs. Our specialty was roast pork, sauerkraut, dumplings and gravy, served with rye bread, kolaches, Czech beer and poppy seed cake," she said.  

Author

Juanita is the author of two books. "Almost immediately after we sold the Old World Inn, the owner of Penfield Press, Iowa City, asked me to write a Wisconsin cookbook.  I said 'yes,' resulting in Wonderful Wisconsin Recipes published in 1991. I also authored Dvorak in Spillville: 100 Days, 100 Years Ago, published by Spillville Historic Action Group. It was written for the ordinary citizen and included great illustrations done by our Norwegian exchange student," she proudly shared. 

Books, Etc.

"We moved to Guttenberg when Russ was hired as a shared superintendent between Garnavillo and Guttenberg. Local realtor Chuck Siebreicht knew of my entrepreneurial nature and showed me the former Gull/Niehaus jewelry building that was for sale. Again I said 'yes' and opened "Books, Etc." We later moved the store to 406 S. River Park Drive where we now reside.  I opened the book store at age 62 and ran it for 10 years. My book discussion group is still going strong," she said.   

Spirited volunteer

"We have always committed ourselves to community involvement wherever we have lived. In December 2013 I issued an invitation 'Letter to the Editor' to The Guttenberg Press. It was addressed  to anyone interested in supporting and promoting the arts in our community." She noted, "In January 2014 Umbrella Arts (UA) was born. For several years The Guttenberg Gallery and Creativity Center allowed us to piggy-back on their 5013C. In 2017 Umbrella Arts was granted our own 5013C status allowing us to expand our mission." Umbrella Arts is comprised of community volunteers that possess a passion for and desire to support and promote the arts. Since its induction, UA has sponsored River of Music – a free Friday evening concert series; Clayton Ridge/St. Mary students to attend educational events as part of the University of Dubuque School Bus Program; limestone planters and seasonal flags in Guttenberg's historic business district, the annual public art/sculpture contest, and has cooperated with other groups to sponsor artistic entertainment." 

Juanita's Folly

In February 2019, on her 84th birthday, Juanita launched “Juanita’s Folly,” a consignment store. Juanita's Folly invited donors to choose a non-profit organization, which would receive 80% of each sale. "Out of the blue we received an offer to purchase 3 Goethe Street, which housed the consignment shop," she explained. "At ages 85 and 86, we decided to sell. The coronavirus pandemic came and the consignment store was deemed a nonessential business, curtailing a going-out of business sale. Consignors picked up their unsold goods and the rest was donated. That was the end of entrepreneur adventure number three." 

Keep Guttenberg Beautiful

"A number of years ago I acquired a grocery cart when Ben Franklin went out of business. I had Sheryl Bahls make two 'Keep Guttenberg Beautiful' signs, which I attached to both sides of the grocery cart. The idea was that I would load it up and go up and down the street cleaning/weeding etc., instead of just complaining about things. 

"Fast forward two hip replacements, a bad left knee and a broken femur resulting in one leg an inch shorter – which does not make me a good walker, but a good lawn mower!" she said. 

"I signed up to deliver the 2020 River of Music posters on River Park Drive in the 300-600 blocks, and was dismayed at seeing neglected, unoccupied properties needing attention. I loaded up my cart and went to one property. Using my broom, water and newspapers I spruced up the area. I came away feeling like it was  worth my time. 

“I sent another editorial letter inviting others to join my ‘Keep Guttenberg Beautiful’ campaign. I don’t expect a group to gather together to do what needs to be done. Just take an area that you want to focus on and make your own schedule.

“I couldn’t have accomplished all this without a very supportive spouse. I loved going back to school as an older adult learner. I never learned how to relax and play. I am now playing cribbage daily and have learned a new game, “Chicken Foot” played with double dominoes. Say ‘yes’ to opportunities!” she exclaimed.

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