Ilene Lande, Brick Arch Winery

Soft golden light spills from the windows beneath the iconic brick arch of the Brick Arch Winery in West Branch, Iowa. It plays along the sidewalk and draws in the passerby, enchanted by the hospitality they catch a glimpse of through the glass.

“It’s cozy and elegant,” said owner and winemaker Ilene Land, of the atmosphere of Brick Arch. “Some people find it intimidating to look at, but it isn’t at all, it’s very comfortable, and the most common description is it’s warm, like being in somebody’s house.”

Contributing to the comfortable atmosphere and the way the business seamlessly fits in with the rest of the West Branch Main Street, are the historic roots of the winery building. The current building is a reconstruction of a 1907 post office, which was later turned into a gas station and retained that function until Lande and her husband bought the property. The building next door to the post office/gas station was a millinery shop and served as the inspiration for the design of the building that currently houses the event space.

Construction came with difficulties, however, and the building collapsed and slid into a hole which had been created for a new cellar, becoming entirely lost.

“It could’ve been worse,” said Lande. “The only casualty was the porta potty.”

Despite the damage, and the further challenges the setback created, the winery opened in March of 2011. Remaining as a reminder to Brick Arch Winery’s historic roots is the original Post Office sign, the keystone and brick from the original building, which help to form the backdrop of the stage in the winery’s event space.

Lande said the new building fits into the entirety of the historic street and also fits in with the legacy of the original building.

“A lot of people, if they don’t look at the new keystone, think it’s the original,” she said.

Brick Arch Winery provides a place for numerous community groups to meet throughout the year. They host many events, and have live music every Sunday. Due to customer demand, Brick Arch has also expanded their food offerings and have a full menu on Friday nights, some food options during the live music Sundays, and pizza on Wednesday nights.

“We try to be a gathering place, and we’re pleased to be part of the small town life,” said Lande. “I think it must be inherent in our nature that food and wine and people go together and always have.”

Lande said being a gathering place for the community is her goal for Brick Arch Winery.

“We’ve tried to make it so that it’s a comfortable place to be and talk to one another. As opposed to a bar where the music is too loud to talk, here the acoustics are designed so even when there is music, you can still talk to each other.”

This atmosphere has proven attractive for a whole new group of customers: single women.

“It’s a safe, comfortable environment,” Lande said. “Someone will always invite you to join them.”

Opportunities for community are everywhere you look in Brick Arch Winery.

“Strangers here are just friends you haven’t met yet,” said Lande.