River-N-Ridge Outdoors wins close battle for Open 4 Business: Fish Tank Edition through Main Street Lansing

Two Lansing businesses, River-N-Ridge Outdoors and Lansing Housing Products, competed for the $2,000 grant award offered to the winner of the local Open 4 Business: Fish Tank Edition competition, as well as the chance to compete for up to $28,000 at the state level through Main Street Iowa. The competition was originally set to take place during the Main Street Lansing Annual Meeting and Dinner scheduled for March 21 and would have featured live pitches on stage to the panel of judges. After the COVID-19 pandemic led to the postponement of that event, Main Street Lansing decided to continue with the competition remotely.

“I’m very impressed with the flexibility our judges and entrants showed after the postponement of the Annual Meeting,” said Andy Kelleher, Executive Director of Main Street Lansing. “Without their willingness to adapt, we wouldn’t have been able to continue with the competition. Main Street Lansing feels, now more than ever, that this is a perfect time to infuse downtown with some capital.”

The panel of three judges included Lansing Mayor Kyle Walleser, Eastern Allamakee Community School District Guidance Counselor Jeannine Hisel and Kerndt Brothers Insurance Agency President Gary DeVilbiss. Each judge received the competition applications and worked remotely to score and critique them.

“We were disappointed that the competition couldn’t be as open to the public, but judging remotely allowed us to respect the current social distancing recommendations,” said Kelleher.

Lansing Housing Products, represented by owner Brian Houlihan, has been in Lansing since 2003; the business has a long history of providing windows, entry doors, screen doors, storm doors and screen repair, as well as an emerging product line with its patented Tough Tek Metals Child Safety Screen. Since developing the child safety screen, they have become involved with child safety advocates looking to protect children from window falls.

Lansing Housing Products hoped to use the grant funds to travel and market to new clients around the United States, allowing them to demonstrate the safety screen product to military and affordable housing providers; the business has a strong opportunity to capture this market if it can get in touch with the proper representatives. It was also hoped to use a portion of the funds to purchase new shop equipment to improve efficiencies and production processes. Without these funds, Lansing Housing Products still plans to take those marketing actions; however, those actions will need to be spread out over a longer period of time.

River-N-Ridge Outdoors, represented by owners Mark and Amy Peterson, is a full service outdoor store in business for four years, providing a variety of products and services related to hunting, fishing and boating. A small sampling of the business’ products and services include firearms, ammunition, live bait, tackle and gun repair. The wide variety of outdoor activities in the Lansing area allow the business to capture the market of outdoor enthusiasts, both locals and visitors. The business location along the river allows for easy access from the street and from a dock, and its firearm products and services are unique to the business district.

River-N-Ridge plans to use the funds to expand its services to include archery, clothing and more boating supplies, as well as helping reach the goal of opening a larger retail space in Lansing. The business also hoped to increase advertising, including the use of television with an intention of drawing new people into Lansing to help not only its own business but all the businesses in the community.

Both entrants scored extremely well, and the final results were neck-and-neck. Judges agreed that both businesses were very well-rounded, with solid grasps of their markets and their expansion efforts moving forward. Lansing Housing Products was highlighted for the job creation potential it had, and River-N-Ridge was highlighted for the increased store and community foot traffic it would generate. The community support of both businesses is commendable.

In the end, River-N-Ridge scored the highest and will now receive $2,000, provided jointly by Kerndt Bothers Bank, Kerndt Brothers Insurance Agency, Lansing Fitness Center and Main Street Lansing. Additionally, River-N-Ridge will be able to advance into the statewide contest, Open 4 Business, sponsored by Main Street Iowa.
Open 4 Business is an annual competition through Main Street Iowa that allows businesses from across Iowa to compete for the chance to win up to $28,000 in grant funds to be used for business expansion efforts. The competition is only open to designated Main Street communities, and each Main Street community can only send one business to represent them in the statewide competition. A 25% cash match is required in order to receive the state funds. Main Street Lansing will be working with River-N-Ridge in the coming weeks to prepare its state application.

For more information about the Open 4 Business competition, reach out to Andy Kelleher, Executive Director of Main Street Lansing, at 563-538-9229 or director@lansingmatters.com.

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