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Coffee Town: Monticello
At Home in Monticello

Suzanne Barnes

The Gazette

March 22, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]



    MONTICELLO — If you talk to Maria White about Monticello, you expect her to sound like she’s president of the Chamber of Commerce because she was, last year.

    However, just about everyone else talks with pride about their community, too.

    Take Ron Behrends, 77, who was born and raised in Monticello. He said he just likes living in the Jones County town.

    ‘‘I enjoy the people,’’ he said.

    Behrends, who said he is supposed to be retired, works at the Pizza Ranch, helps out his son on his acreage and regularly visits his granddaughters in Anamosa.

    Or take Police Chief Ryan Evans, whose wife is a Monticello native. On the job for two years, Evans said he likes ‘‘how everyone gets along.’’

    From his admittedly biased view, it’s a safe community with a low crime rate. However, that’s also important to Evans because he’s an expectant father.

    ‘‘It’s a good, solid community,’’ he said.

    White, owner of Maria’s Art, has lived in Monticello for more than three decades. The Chicago native said the Jones County town is an extremely forward-looking community.

    ‘‘We have a lot of unique stores in Monticello,’’ she said, and the education facilities are fantastic, both public and parochial. ‘‘Not all towns have that choice’’ between private and public.

    Another education facility, Kirkwood Community College, has a branch located within the community.

    ‘‘You don’t even have to go out of town to earn your degree,’’ White pointed out.

    She said you don’t really have to leave town to work either. ‘‘You can make a living here,’’ she said, thanks to the diversity of industry and business.

    Her own business has customers all over the country and beyond. She said if no customers are in her store, it’s not a sign she’s not busy.

    When Highway 151 was expanded and re-routed, towns along the way feared the impact. It has made a difference to some businesses, White said, but not to all.

    Still, she said, ‘‘we’re doing things with digital signage, trying to get our name out.’’ The Monticello name also has gone out through the town Web site, w w w . c i.monticello . i a.us, and the chamber Web site, www.monticello.ia.us

    The chamber site has attracted attention from around the world, from people who are looking for relatives, information or, in one case, other Italians.

    Like Behrends, Susan Tjaden grew up in Monticello. A merchandiser at Theisen’s, she said that in Monticello, ‘‘you know your neighbors are always willing to help you out. In larger communities, you lose that.’’

    For a time, Tjaden lived in Cedar Rapids, where the people next door didn’t even wave at her and her family.

Bobby Ratliff/KCRG-TV9 Monticello lies along Highway 151 in north-central Jones County. The highway was expanded and re-routed to the east. After three years of construction, the Monticello bypass opened in July 2004.
 
 

Duane Crock photos/The Gazette RIGHT: Gabe Francis (front) and Andy Hooten, both of Iowa City, are pulled by aquatic director Tami Peck of Monticello during canoeing Feb. 15 at Camp Courageous. For more than 30 years, the camp, located five miles southeast of Monticello on 80 acres, has been providing year-round recreational and respite opportunities for people with disabilities. Go to www.campcourageous.org for more information.
 
 

ABOVE: Theresa Peiffer of Monticello works on a product at ATP Engineered Rubber and Plastics Group in Monticello on Feb. 15. The company employs about 140, with about 40 temps. Monticello has a strong industrial community with about 25 companies producing a diversity of products. The Jones County town is located along Highways 151 and 38, about 48.5 miles northeast of downtown Iowa City.