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Proposed Casino Prompts Bittersweet Move for Cedar Rapids Business

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - After developers of a proposed $100 million casino in Cedar Rapids announced an operating partner, it's clear things are still moving ahead for the project.

The site of the casino, a plot of land just across the Cedar River from downtown, is mostly empty today. But a handful of businesses still operate there. One of those is Bentley Watch Repair, which has been there since 2003.

When we visited him on Tuesday, Ron Bentley showed us pictures of the devastation he experienced in 2008.

"We literally lost everything," Bentley said.

He rebuilt in three months, but another five years later, he's getting ready the next big change.

"I'm looking forward to getting to higher ground, I won't have to worry about the flood," Bentley told us, recalling the near-miss the city experienced earlier this year, when heavy rains caused the Cedar River to rise again.

The owner of the building Bentley is in came to him when the casino developers showed an interest in the property.

"He came to us and said they'd made him an offer and he was going to accept it."

He said it will be a bittersweet move from a place where so many loyal customers have walked through his door, but he's taking it all in stride.

"I'm happy to see this area be developed. This city needs renovation."

Ron and his son Ryan plan to move the family business to Hiawatha, where the plan is for Ryan to take over one day.

"This next move will be the next step in our lives for us, and I think Hiawatha will be a good place for us," Ryan said as he worked on a Rolex watch.

The only thing Ron is not looking forward to: moving all of those tiny watch pieces.

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