Legacy Business Spotlight: Dubuque’s Italian Restaurants

Legacy Business Spotlight: Dubuque’s Italian Restaurants

In the coming months, Heritage Works will be sharing the histories of some of Dubuque’s legacy businesses. To read more about what legacy businesses are and why they are important, read our first legacy business blog here.

Read below for our next legacy business spotlight covering Dubuque’s legacy Italian restaurants.

Legacy Business Spotlight: Mario’s Italian Restaurant and Lounge

Tonio Mario Bertolini (Mario) was born on April 1, 1944 in rural Italy where he grew up on a farm. At the age of 14, he left home to do an apprenticeship in San Serrano, Italy, where he learned to cook Italian cuisine. In 1969, Mario married Angelina Tucci and the couple moved to Queens, New York with Mario’s family. Mario and Angelina moved to Dubuque in 1977 and opened Mario’s Italian Restaurant and Lounge on the corner of 13th and Main Street, where the restaurant remains today. 

Mario’s Italian Restaurant and Lounge, located at 13th and Main Street. 
Photo credit: www.mariosofdubuque.com/fun-photos

Mario became an iconic figure in Dubuque and was loved by all who patronized his business. Mario passed away on June 15, 2017 but his legacy has certainly left an impact on the Dubuque community. Today, Mario’s Italian Restaurant and Lounge continues to serve authentic Italian food in a friendly and homelike environment. Learn more about Mario’s Italian Restaurant and Lounge at www.mariosofdubuque.com.

“He was never elected to anything. He didn’t serve on the city council or the school board. He wasn’t a corporate executive, major philanthropist or local power broker. Yet Mario Bertolini, in his own simple and friendly way, helped shape the personality of the Dubuque community.”
– “Our View: Mario Bertolini, Dubuque Icon,” Telegraph Herald, June 18, 2017, p. 16A


Mario and Angelina Bertolini.
Photo credit: www.mariosofdubuque.com/about


Legacy Business Spotlight: Marco’s Italian & American Foods

Marco Giuntas was born on September 23, 1929, in Dubuque. After graduating from Loras Academy in 1948, he served in the Korean War.  In 1955, Marco married Carmela Cannavo in Termini Imerese, Italy. Five years later, the couple opened Marco’s Italian & American Foods at 2022 Central Avenue. 

Marco’s Restaurant advertisement published in the Telegraph Herald in 1977.


Marco’s Italian and American Foods, located on Central Avenue.
Photo credit: Encyclopedia Dubuque

Over the years, Marco’s became well-known for its old-fashioned Italian dishes and famous pizza. Marco Giuntas retired in 1995 and passed away in 2015. Today, Marco’s nephew, Frank Giuntas, runs the business with his cousin, Franco Cannavo. The restaurant remains in its original location and is a staple in Dubuque’s local food scene. Learn more about Marco’s Italian & American Foods at www.marcospizzadbq.com.

Frank Giuntas and Franco Cannavo inside of Marco’s Italian and American Foods.
Photo credit: Telegraph Herald

Legacy Business Spotlight: Pusateri’s Italian & American Food

Brothers Mike & Gus Pusateri entered the pizza business in 1958, after Mike ate a bad pizza and decided he needed to make a better one. Mike & Gus’ parents were from Italy and helped them perfect a recipe. They made pizzas in their basement to sell at grocery stores, when pizza was still new in Dubuque. In September, 1959, Pusateri’s Peppe Pizza House opened on West 15th Street.

Pusateri’s Peppe Pizza House, located on West 15th Street. 
Photo credit: Encyclopedia Dubuque

Pusateri’s Italian and American Food opened in 1968 at 2560 Dodge Street. The food was made in the front window so that pedestrians could walk by, watch the pizza being made and, hopefully, be enticed to stop in for a slice or two. That same year, Gus Pusateri retired. In the 1980s, Pusateri’s relocated to 2400 Central Avenue.

Pusateri’s Italian & American Food advertisement published in the Telegraph Herald in 1973.

Today, Pusateri’s remains in its Central Avenue location serving traditional Italian food with recipes that have been perfected for four generations. The restaurant even makes its own sausage, dough, peppe burger, lasagna, marinara sauce, spaghetti sauce, and pizza sauce. Learn more about Pusateri’s Italian & American Food at www.pusaterisdelivers.com.

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Heritage Works Board of Directors Election Results

April 28, 2020 (Dubuque, IA)—Heritage Works, Dubuque’s not-for-profit organization which leverages architectural heritage to drive community revitalization and economic development, elected at its annual meeting the following individuals to its board of directors:

  • Debi Butler
  • Susan Farber
  • Mary Gronen
  • Flint Drake
  • John Butler
  • David Klavitter
  • John Gronen

At the group’s reorganization meeting, the following board officers were elected:

  • David Klavitter, Chair
  • Flint Drake, Vice Chair
  • Mary Gronen, Secretary
  • Susan Farber, Treasurer
  • Duane Hagerty, President/CEO

About Heritage Works

Heritage Works is a 501(c)(3) corporation which serves as a comprehensive resource for those engaged in preservation and redevelopment projects in the Dubuque area. Founded in 2015, it is focused on three primary objectives: 1) Facilitating collaboration for catalytic preservation and restoration projects, including help in gathering financial assistance for such projects; 2) Community and governmental advocacy emphasizing the importance of historic preservation; and 3) Educational programming highlighting Dubuque’s rich historic and architectural heritage. Learn more at www.heritageworksdbq.com.

Legacy Business Spotlight: Hartig Drug Company

Legacy Business Spotlight: Hartig Drug Company

In the coming months, Heritage Works will be sharing the histories of some of Dubuque’s legacy businesses. To read more about what legacy businesses are and why they are important, read our first legacy business blog here.

Read below for our next legacy business spotlight, Hartig Drug Company.

Legacy Business Spotlight: Hartig Drug Company

Hartig Drug is the second oldest family-owned pharmacy chain in the United States. The 116-year old, Dubuque-based drugstore chain got its start on Locust Street in Dubuque. 

The company’s founder, Albert J. (AJ) Hartig, worked summers and holidays at the pharmacy owned by Otto Ruete. When Ruete became ill in 1904, he asked Hartig to purchase the store at 97 Locust Street in Dubuque. Hartig was then in his last year of pharmacy school at Northwestern University. 

Hartig Drug’s first location at 97 Locust Street in Dubuque
Photo credit: Encyclopedia Dubuque

Hartig opened a second location in 1912 and hired his sister Olga, one of the first female pharmacists in Illinois to help manage the East Dubuque location in 1912. 

In 1917, a third store was opened at 630 Main Street but moved to 756 Main in 1925. The fourth Hartig store was opened in 1934 at 25th and Central. The Main Street store was moved again in 1941 to 730-736 Main. This became Dubuque’s first self-serve drug store.

Postcard showing the 730 Main Street Hartig location
Photo credit: Encyclopedia Dubuque

AJ Hartig’s son, David, entered the business in the early 1930s. Kenneth Hartig, David’s brother, joined the firm in 1940 but was then called into military service during World War II. When he returned to the United States, the two brothers assumed leadership of the company. In 1944, the store on Central was relocated to 24th and Central. Construction continued in 1951 as a new store replacing the original at 1st and Locust was opened. In 1954, the site of the old Capital Theater became the new location of the Central Street store. The 1959 Dubuque City Directory listed store locations at 2203 Central, 97 Locust, and 730 Main. The company built and opened a new store at 22nd and Central with a parking lot in 1964. 

When David retired in 1970, Kenneth took on leadership of the company and became sole owner by purchasing all the corporate stock. A new store was opened in Asbury Square Shopping Center. This was followed in 1971 with a new store at 700 Town Clock Plaza in 1971.

In 1973, Kenneth’s son, Richard (Dick) Hartig, was completing pharmacy school when Kenneth passed away unexpectedly. Though Dick hadn’t planned to return to Dubuque, upon graduating he moved back to help run the company. 

The company owned additional stores in Dubuque and Oelwein before opening a branch in Galena in 1975. The two Holscher’s Apothecary operations were purchased in 1977 and combined in 1980 to form Hartig Homecare, a home health and pharmacy, located at Kennedy Road and Pennsylvania Avenue. In 1989, the company purchased a building at 703 Town Clock Plaza and renovated it to serve as corporate offices. Throughout Dick Hartig’s tenure leading Hartig Drug Company, the organization grew from five locations to 21 community pharmacy locations. 

In 2019, Dick’s son, Charlie, was appointed CEO of Hartig Drug Company and his other son, Wes, the CEO of MedOne. Hartig operates 22 retail stores across Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, in addition to Hartig Pharmacy Services, Finley-Hartig Homecare and MedOne. Learn more about Hartig Drug at www.hartigdrug.com.

Stay up-to-date on the latest Heritage Works blog posts by joining our e-mail list and following Heritage Works on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@heritageworksdbq).

Legacy Business Spotlight: Graham’s Style Store

Legacy Business Spotlight: Graham’s Style Store

If walls could talk, historic buildings would have many stories to tell. Historic buildings are not just bricks, mortar and boards. They are an accumulation of the history of the various occupants of those buildings over time. Dubuque is fortunate to have many long-standing businesses that have given life to buildings downtown. These businesses are sometimes known as legacy businesses.

What is a legacy business?

Any local business that has been in operation for 30 or more years and is significant to the identity of the city can be considered a legacy business. Whether they are manufacturers, service providers, small shops or restaurants, legacy businesses create jobs, generate revenue and contribute to their towns’ distinct brands.

Why are they important?

Dubuque was chartered in the 1830s, making it the oldest town in Iowa and one of the oldest towns west of the Mississippi. Over the years, plenty of restaurants, grocery stores, clothing shops and manufacturers have done business in Dubuque. Legacy businesses have continued to grow and invest in our community, despite the challenges that small businesses face, such as rent increases and the rise of ecommerce. According to a study by the City of Seattle, “legacy businesses serve as community gathering spots, hubs of social capital and cohesion, and valuable ‘third spaces’ apart from home and work that support local culture and stability.” Large corporations do not offer the same community value.

What can we do to help legacy businesses thrive?

Local businesses are integral to our city’s economic success and cultural vibrancy and they need community support. There are plenty of ways to help out.

  • Shop small whenever possible and encourage friends and family to do the same.
  • Dine at locally-owned restaurants.
  • Attend community events with local vendors.
  • Share your positive experiences with small businesses on social media.
  • Support events like your local farmer’s market and Shop Small Saturday.
  • Give small business products as gifts for birthdays, holidays and other special occasions.
  • Leave positive reviews online.
  • Support your local and national Main Street organizations.

While preservation work is usually building-focused, saving places means more than preserving physical property. Preservation is about celebrating the history, people and businesses that have given life and purpose to our buildings. After all, buildings would not exist without the people who built them.

In the coming months, we will be sharing stories of some of Dubuque’s legacy businesses. Follow along by joining our e-mail list and following Heritage Works on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@heritageworksdbq).

Read below for our first legacy business spotlight, Graham’s Style Store.

Legacy Business Spotlight: Graham’s Style Store

Ed Graham started Graham’s Style Store as Ed Graham & Sons when the store opened on 845 Main Street in Dubuque on August 15, 1936. The store was originally a men’s clothing shop, at a time when a full suit sold for $20 and neck ties and dress shirts sold for $1 each.

Ed Graham’s sons, John and Joseph, were associated with the family business from the beginning and helped their father run the store. John later went on to become a member of the clergy.

The store moved to 888 Main Street in 1943.

Joseph Graham’s son, Thomas, began working at the store in the late 1960s. During this time, Ed Graham owned the store and Joseph operated it. The business briefly moved into the Fischer Building at 923 Main Street in the midst of urban renewal in the late 1960s through 1971. Joseph Graham bought the site of the 888 Main Street store and built the current Graham Building at the north entrance of a newly created pedestrian mall. Graham’s Style Store moved to its current location at 890 Main Street in 1971, by which time Joseph Graham was president of the company, with Thomas Graham as vice-president.

This photo shows Graham’s at its 888 Main Street location circa 1968 next to what was Arenz Shoe Store. Photo credit: Encyclopedia Dubuque.

After the financial difficulties that plagued Dubuque in the 1980s, Thomas Graham became a leader in the revitalization of downtown Dubuque. He helped lead other downtown business owners in an effort to garner support for Dubuque’s local businesses and economy. He also purchased the adjacent Stampfer’s Department Store. Later, Thomas helped establish Dubuque Main Street, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the downtown neighborhood. He spent 30 years running the business before retiring in 1995. Thomas’ brother, Joseph, bought the business in 1995.

Ben Graham joined his father, Joseph, in 1996. Joseph encouraged Ben to give Graham’s a new voice at the turn of the century. They worked hard to give the store a fresher look through the addition of tuxedo rentals, younger men’s sportswear and shoes, even adding women’s clothing to their product mix in 2006. On January 31, 2014, the Graham’s moved to 960 Main Street for two months for an extensive store remodel. Joseph Graham retired in April 2016. Today, Graham’s Style Store is run by Ben Graham and Katie McFadden, who are both great-grandchildren of Ed Graham.

Graham’s Style Store provides a wide selection of high-end dress and casual clothing and in-house tailoring for anyone looking for exceptional products and service.

To learn more about Graham’s Style Store, visit www.grahamsdbq.com.  

Dubuque’s Streetcar Lines

Dubuque’s Streetcar Lines

By Bill Doyle, Preservation & Programs Manager at Heritage Works 

As a young person, I was interested in understanding the world around me. I did my undergrad in Anthropology, and one of my favorite courses studied the interactions between humans and the environment.  In the class, we learned about the extinction of a great swathe of animals that coincided with humans crossing into North America for the first time. My teacher, Dr. Jamie Hodgkins, of University of Colorado Denver asked:

“Does anyone know what the fastest land animal in North America is?”

None of the students knew.

“It’s the Pronghorn, it can run sixty miles per hour.” She paused. “Do you think it’s odd that it can run so fast?”

We sat there nonplussed.  

“The pronghorn evolved to escape the former fastest animal in North America, the American Cheetah.”

This event, strange as it may seem, taught me to appreciate the fact that anything I was studying may be missing a key piece of historic context. It also taught me a good method of learning. Look for oddness. When something seems odd, there is usually an explanation.

Like the American Cheetah, Dubuque’s streetcar system is gone. However, the urban environment that it informed, the urban design, remains remarkably intact. A chief example of the streetcar design are the rows of worker housing set between small commercial buildings that characterize Dubuque’s north end, especially north of 20th Avenue on Jackson and Central, as well as the neighborhoods around Rhomberg and Windsor.  

Dubuque’s downtown design was created by a city of walkers. The walking culture valued the dense, multi-story, mixed-use, commercial buildings that shouldered up next to one another on Main Street. And the blocks around them, such as those on Bluff Street had simpler duplexes and fourplexes. Those buildings housed the factory workers and laborers that enabled this town to grow so quickly one hundred and fifty years ago.

The streetcar network started in 1868, to meet the needs of an industrializing city. A handful of wealthy Dubuquer’s formed a horse drawn streetcar that drove development northward, up to the street car barn at 24th and Central.

The inside of the bus barn at 24th and central. Photo from Center for Dubuque History and Tim Olson.

In 1877, another company was formed to carry passengers up the bluffs with a noisy steam locomotive. It was able to ascend a carefully plotted route, chosen to minimize the grade increase as much as possible. The streetcar trundled up Hill Street, turned on Third, then on Alpine Street westward onto University Ave. The older houses in that neighborhood were served by the streetcar line.  And on University Avenue, west of Alpine, that odd strip of old commercial buildings is also explained by the streetcar. Those commercial spaces served the commuters that lived in the streetcar neighborhood.

Image: Dubuque County Historical Society

In the late 1880s, three electric trolley companies battled it out to establish dominance of Dubuque’s transportation network. During this time the North end and Rhomberg neighborhood filled with worker cottages. The competition lasted a little over a decade before the Union Electric Company consolidated the network into one company in 1900. The golden era of streetcars was underway, and they became the dominant method of transportation for the common man.  

Like the American Cheetah, the streetcars are extinct, but we can still ponder all of the remaining Pronghorn’s, those parts of our town that seem puzzling at first, but make sense with the forgotten context.  It is my hope that the Dubuque Streetcar story map will surface that context.

Here is a link to a story map I created that will take you through some of the history of Dubuque’s Streetcar lines.  https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/df7402dad6be4b3399996484f3e7e7ce

Take special care to zoom in and look at the tiled Fire Insurance Maps. They have so much detail about our past environment. If you are a history nerd like me, you may find yourself staring at them for hours.


Why Preservation Matters

Why Preservation Matters

By Megan Viertel, Communications & Marketing Coordinator at Heritage Works 

It has been over three months since I started my role as Communications and Marketing Coordinator at Heritage Works. I walked in on my first day as a recent college graduate with only a basic understanding of the impact that preservation has on the community. After some time on the job, let me tell you what I’ve learned about preservation and why my generation needs to care.

What is preservation? 

Preservation is the conservation of materials and architectural elements in a historic structure. The goal of preservation is to revitalize historic, sometimes underutilized, buildings so that they can generate economic and cultural value as they once did. Preservation benefits cities in a variety of ways.


Historic architecture has unique design and charm that has stood the test of time. Revitalized historic buildings add character and authentic beauty to our streets, drawing in residents and tourists alike. Who doesn’t want to live in a beautiful community, after all?


Imagine walking down the street and being transported to a different time period. Imagine being surrounded by some of the same buildings that people lived and worked in decades – even centuries – ago. Once these structures are gone, they are gone for good. Preserving historic architecture preserves the past so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come. This is the “feel good” part about preservation; saving places that connect us to our community’s history.

Built to last

Old buildings were built to last for hundreds of years. Newer buildings, on the other hand, are not built in the same way with the same high quality materials. It is not environmentally or financially responsible to demolish buildings with years of life left in them.

Less waste

Demolition creates unnecessary waste and pollution, only to use up more raw materials, energy and funds on new buildings. It is much more sustainable to preserve materials and structures that already exist. For instance, demolitions result in millions of tons of historic building materials ending up in landfills every year. Instead of demolishing historic buildings, it is better to restore buildings and maintain historic character while reducing waste.

Economic development

Historic preservation sparks economic growth. Rehabilitation work creates jobs and gives vacant or underutilized buildings a purpose. Rather than sitting unused, revitalized buildings bring in people and generate income as commercial and residential spaces. And where does that income go? Right back into our local economy!

Preservation makes communities more authentic. We know that younger generations desire authentic experiences. A vibrant, historic town plays a role in attracting and retaining a youthful, talented workforce.


Before (top) and after (bottom) photos the revitalization of a commercial space on Central Avenue.

Before (top) and after (bottom) photos the revitalization of a residential space on Central Avenue.


Downtowns are a place for local businesses, community events, art and culture, stimulating economic growth and a sense of togetherness. Vibrant, authentic communities foster pride in their citizens and offer a space for heritage to be remembered and celebrated.

As someone born and raised in Dubuque, I love seeing how our historic city has transformed over the years. With a bustling downtown, plenty of job opportunities and affordable housing, it was an easy decision to continue living here after college. The revitalization of our unique town has made it a more lively and attractive place to live, work and play for all ages. Investment in preservation leads to more investment, attracting people and creating jobs. It is, without a doubt, an exciting time to live in a historic town. If we want to keep the momentum going, preservation work needs to continue. The younger generations are the ones who are going to need to make it happen.

At Heritage Works, it is our mission to provide resources for those engaging in preservation work. We offer consulting services, assistance with the tax credit application process and training opportunities for the next generation of preservationists. If you are interested in learning more about historic preservation and our work, visit www.heritageworksdbq.com. To contribute to our continued preservation efforts, educational programming and fulfillment of our mission, consider becoming a Heritage Works member at https://heritageworksdbq.com/donate.