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Marion couple give through renovation

By Deirdre Ryan, Marion Times | July 2nd, 2015 |

Anytime you give with all of your heart, you usually get that back,” stated Jeanne Matthews, owner of the Memorial Hall and new Alley Gallery, located at 770 11th St. in Marion. “Marion has been gracious to us … we’re excited to be giving a piece of the history back to the community.”

Since Matthews and her husband, Paul, have been married, Marion and the surrounding areas have been home to them. It is where they have raised their two daughters, Abby and Lexy, and it is where they ran their millwork manufacturing business for many years. The City of Marion has and always will be dear to the hearts of the Matthews family.

So when opportunity arose in 2013 to purchase the historic Memorial Hall in Uptown Marion from the CampbellSteele Gallery, Matthews and her husband jumped at this chance. This new venture would help them to give back to the community, and it would give them the opportunity to take on an exciting project that would have an outstanding end result.

“It was scary to look at, but because of our skill sets, we saw this as an interesting challenge,” said Matthews. “We’re at the stage in our lives where the kids are grown up … we decided to be crazy.”

After Matthews and her husband sold their millwork manufacturing business, Paul began doing construction on his own, and Jeanne entered into the reality world with Skogman Reality. They knew their careers and passions would definitely be an asset to their Memorial Hall renovation project.

While Matthews picks out most of the decor for the building, her husband does the majority of the construction. He even takes antique furniture pieces and turns them into something brand new.

All together, the completed Memorial Hall will include three pieces; an art gallery and Irish pub in the lower level, and then the Matthews living space up above. The first part of the renovation project was the art gallery, known as the Alley Gallery. This opened up in May of 2015, just in time for Marion’s Annual Art Festival.

Jan White, a former art teacher, and Pam Hyberger, an artist with Hy-Vee in Marion, both assist Matthews in the daily operations of the gallery. The Alley Gallery features artwork, photography, sculptures, pottery, jewelry and more. Matthews noted that her intent is to incorporate art for all types of people with all types of incomes.

The second portion of the hall renovation was the living quarters for Matthews and her husband. Although there is quite a bit to complete, the work that this duo have done throughout the upstairs is breathtaking.

“There’s something about this building that is just magical,” said Matthews. “We still have a lot of blood, sweat and tears to put in, though.”

And last, but certainly not least, is the Irish pub portion of the Memorial Hall project. The Matthews will call their bar Uptown Snug, and the estimated completion is fall of 2015. This new venue will feature Guinness beer, a dinner special every night and a variety of hearty appetizers.

“The ‘snug’ atmosphere will bring people in … it will be classy and casual,” commented Matthews. “We will have good drinks, good chairs, good atmosphere and good people.”

Uptown Snug will also be on the lower level of the Memorial Hall, but its main entrance will be the historic alley way, not on 11th St., like the gallery. This entrance will also work well with the completion of the ImaginArt in the Alleyways project and the plaza, noted Matthews.

On Thursday, July 9, anyone participating the EAT. DRINK. & BE MARION., will also have the opportunity to do a walk-through of Uptown Snug prior to the actual pub opening. Matthews commented that she and Paul are looking forward to participating in many more Marion events to come; they would like to give back in any way they can.

“The whole community is watching this building, and we haven’t heard any negative feedback,” said Matthews. “We have made sure this is the ‘gold standard’ of renovations.”

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