When Rebekah Neuendorf and Sonya LaGrange heard Swisher Fun Days might be canceled, they decided to take things into their own hands.

The two started running the annual summer event, and they soon realized they worked well together.

So when a bar in their tiny town of less than 1,000 people was up for sale, they joked they should buy it.  

Soon, however, they found themselves contemplating names and business plans.

“When we came up with the name, we thought, ‘Uh oh, we have to do this,’” Neuendorf said.

The name, Black Squirrel Tap, is in homage to the black squirrels known to inhabit Swisher, including one often spotted on the bar’s roof.

The bar itself, which used to be Shooters on Second, also is a Swish mainstay, but with the new name, some minor interior decorating changes and an expanded drink and food lineup, Neuendorf and LaGrange have made it their own.

The bought the bar in August and were closed for less than a week while they installed new light fixtures, poured a new bar top and brought in their expanded tap lineup. They opened their doors Aug. 12 as Black Squirrel Tap.

The duo added to the food menu and added craft beers, wine and craft cocktails featuring liquor from their fellow Swisher business, Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery to the menu.

Though they serve food, Neuendorf said they mainly consider themselves a bar. She also co-owns iBUS Road Tours, which provides winery and brewery tours in the Corridor, and she said she enjoys working in the food and drink industry.

“You meet a lot of really awesome people,” she said.

LaGrange, who also co-owns the Vault Boutique next door, has lived in Swisher her whole life. She said the bar is an important part of the tapestry of the town’s life, one she wanted to help maintain.

“We didn’t want to see the bar go to just anybody,” she said. “We wanted to keep it local, in town.”

Neuendorf agreed. Originally from Waverly, she moved to Swisher a few years ago after her husband got a job in Cedar Rapids. Swisher’s small town atmosphere appealed to them.

“We liked that kind of back home, community feeling where you know your neighbors, you know the people at the library, you know the people at your coffee shop,” she said. “Swisher’s motto is, ‘A place to call home,’ and I guess we hope even visitors feel at home here.”

It’s the same reason both of them took on Swisher Fun Days, which they are now in the third year of planning.

“We just want to see positive growth keep happening for the town,” LaGrange said.


WHAT: Black Squirrel Tap
WHERE: 72 Second St. SE, Swisher
WHEN: 11 a.m. until bar close; about 2 a.m. weekends, 9 to 10 p.m. weekdays
DETAILS: (319) 857-4447, facebook.com/BlackSquirrelTap