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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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.