Rock Island wouldn’t be the same without Theo’s Java Club
There haven’t been many constants that have stood the test of time in downtown Rock Island, through several eras, over the past three decades.
Theo’s Java Club was one of the few.
The unique, quirky and fantastic java and performance space of 213 17th St. has been a haven for local creators and figures, mixing with local lawyers and courthouse types, businessmen and women. tourists coming from the hotel across the street. Theo’s has long been a magnet for Quad-Cities, attracting a wide range of people because it was a unique destination. Of course, you could have your coffee elsewhere, and over time, since the birth of coffee culture in the mid-90s, many elsewhere have appeared, but there was only one Theo.
And that one, Theo’s will most likely pour his last cup to Joe on Saturday, October 2.
Barring a last minute change, this will be the last day the spot opens in its current incarnation, owner Theo Grevas told me this week over coffee, of course, as we sat down. in front of his store, chatting and watching the traffic. move to downtown Rock Island.
There was a lot less traffic than the first time he and I sat outside this space and talked.
In 1994, even before it opened, I wrote the very first media story on Theo’s Java Club, for the long gone Rock Island Argus.
I was working in downtown Rock Island, in the Argus building, which closed in 2008, and it was just at the start of an explosion of cafes and culture spurred by the coming of age of people like me, in my late teens. and in their early twenties, Generation X. Back then, downtown Rock Island was a bustling and rugged hub – it was the District, and it was definitely the place to be.
Downtown Davenport and Moline were ghost towns, the village of East Davenport was just a few bars and nothing else. Moline East and Bettendorf had a few places but no overall plan.
Downtown Rock Island, on the other hand, had a very different vibe. RIBCO and 2nd Ave. were the places to go on weekends, and there was no shortage of other bars and clubs along the same strip to get in and out. Some of them changed names as quickly as different styles of music and dress changed, but they stayed hot. Copia, Blue Cat, Huckleberry’s and others had great food and premium drinks.
And then there was Theo’s – the place EVERYBODY went for their daily caffeine, for meetings, for lunch, to hang out or just to relax.
And no matter what happens in the future, once owner and founder Theo Grevas is no longer involved in the spot, it just won’t be the same. He knows it, and he’s actually in a pretty good mood about it all.
“I think we’ll set a date October 2nd, it’s a Saturday night, I think that would be a good time to say that’s it for Theo, I think that’s the date we’ll close “Theo said with a smile. “The changes are constant, they’re just going to happen, hopefully someone can take over and take over this store or have something similar that people can go to like they’ve been to Theo’s in the last 27 years. last years. I hope. We’ll see.”
Theo’s Java Hut opened in 1993 in downtown Davenport, but it was the Java Club, which opened in 1994 in downtown Rock Island, that eventually created its legacy. And now, he says, it’s time to move on, to look back with a smile, but then to turn around and move on to new things.
“I’m excited about it, I have a lot of things planned, my wife has a lot of things planned,” says Theo. “I don’t mean to sound selfish about it, we’ve had 27 great years, but I think we’re in a good position to say it’s time to step back, look back on 27 great years and let someone go. one if not take matters into their own hands and hopefully get things done.
There are plenty of memories he will take with him, and he talks about writing them down in a book. One of them involving a certain movie legend who Theo says is possibly the most famous person he’s ever had in his place.
“Someone once asked me who was the most famous person who came here, and I have to say it was Mickey Rooney,” Theo said. “He came here, he was doing a Circa show in the early 2000s, and he was here having breakfast with his wife, and I had this picture of him that I had here at the cafe and I got him to sign it. He was a good guy! “
Over the years, I have interviewed and bumped into various other celebrities at Theo’s. I interviewed members of Vampire Weekend there. I spent time with Smashing Pumpkins members there. I ran into Olympic skater Scott Hamilton in line. I took members of Veruca Salt there when they asked me to take them to the best cafe in the Quad-Cities. And many more.
“Yeah, between Circa, and RIBCO, and The Mark, or, well TaxSlayer Center, there were a lot of famous people that came here,” Theo noted. “When Daytrotter was downtown, groups would come here all the time. “
Some of these stories could end up in Theo’s book. Others will only be good memories, he says.
But regardless, he’s ready to close the chapter on his current business and is hoping someone else will step up to keep it in some form or another.
“We’ll see what happens here,” Theo said. “I would love to see coffee here, it’s a place, a wonderful location, bring a lot of people, a lot of regulars, it’s just a great place, and I’m really glad we found this in ’94 and could continue with what we did. I’d love to see someone else come in and keep it here, but we’ll see what happens.
“There are a few people who are really interested in this happening before October 2, and if it does, we will remain open during the transition, but if nothing is finalized before that date, we are considering closing this. month of October. 2, but it’s fluid, something could change, you never know.
“I have a train ticket for October 7, I’m going to the coast to relax on the beach,” he laughed, “so I have to go first!”
And by then he finished his coffee, thanked me for the time, smiled and said, “Well, I should probably go back inside and get back to work!” “
We shook hands, we said goodbye, and he came in, through the same doors he did after our first conversation 27 years ago, albeit with a very different mindset. , and to a very different path.
A path, a future, without Théo’s, at least not in his current incarnation.
I hope whatever comes next is worthy of the space, the legacy, the memories it will replace.
But no matter what happens, there will never be another Theo and Rock Island will never be quite the same without him.
Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has written professionally since his debut at the age of 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. A graduate with honors from the University of Southern California’s master’s program, he has written more than 50 books, including best-selling books The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone, and We Are All Characters.