Loss of family-owned business hits harder in small-town Waukon

Fire crews work to put out the smoke at Gus and Tony's on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020 in Waukon (Maggie Wedlake/KCRG)
Fire crews work to put out the smoke at Gus and Tony's on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020 in Waukon (Maggie Wedlake/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Feb. 10, 2020 at 10:32 PM CST
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A fire broke out this morning at a popular restaurant in Waukon.

Crews knocked down what remained of Gus and Tony's Pizza and Steakhouse on Monday night after flames burned a lot of it throughout the day.

Waukon is a small community that has taken its fair share of knocks and blows. Resident and former city council member Rod Peterson has been around for them all.

"Every time we lose a business in this town it hurts, because in every small town it is just hard on everything," Peterson said.

Fire Chief Dave Martin said that two children, their mother, and one pet were rescued by an onlooker from the apartment next door to the restaurant.

Peterson said this has happened before in the downtown area.

"Across the street, there used to be businesses but they burned down years ago. Down here there used to be a big mill," Peterson said. "Everything burned down in another fire, but it's just part of what happens. It's never easy."

Waukon is the kind of town that comes to mind when you think of small-town Iowa, so having a fire like the here today leaves its mark. New buildings in a small town can bring opportunity, but losing them to tragedy is never the way they would like to have a fresh start.

"People need to realize that it's just tough on the community. Every town goes through this every time there is a fire or one goes out of business," Peterson said.

Gus and Tony's has been a family restaurant in town for 39 years.

So while this particular loss is a shock for Waukon, Peterson knows the tiny town is strong enough to handle it.

"We'll survive," Peterson said. "We always do. That's what Iowans do."

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