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Founders is a fortuitous find in Bondurant


Founders shares bartender Azra Feriz, who pours a coffee and house-made Founders Irish Cream for an afternoon patron, with its sister bar in Ames, Whiskey River.

Founders shares bartender Azra Feriz, who pours a coffee and house-made Founders Irish Cream for an afternoon patron, with its sister bar in Ames, Whiskey River.

You know it’s going to be a good time when you walk into a small-town bar just in time for happy hour and the Dropkick Murphy’s are electrifying your hair follicles from speakers somewhere above your head. Such was the case around 3 o’clock on a drizzly Wednesday afternoon last week, as I passed through the bedroom community of Bondurant.

The owners of Ames’ Whiskey River revamped the old Cory’s Irish Pub last March, transforming it into a surprisingly classy little haunt called Founders in the historic 1880s-era brick building on the otherwise everyday kind of corner — a building that has been just about everything from a funeral home to a dance studio, according to co-owner Nicki Romare.

“It’s the tallest building in town,” she laughed, excluding the farmers’ co-op grain silos, of course.

But once you’ve found Bondurant, nothing in town is too hard to spot, and Founders is quite the find. The bar is spacious enough to allow a pool table at the entrance, a line of stools at a decent-sized bar and a back area of tables and booths. The hard wood, exposed brick and industrial ceiling give Founders an almost European — or at least a Des Moines’ East Village — kind of feel. But that’s merely the first impression.

Like Jack’s beanstalk, an almost hidden stairway leads to a golden jewel on the second floor. Just flirting with an inquiry as to what’s upstairs puts an eager twinkle in Romare’s pretty eye, as she leads the way to an elegant banquet hall. In Bondurant? Who knew?

“On Saint Patty’s Day last year, we had over 200 people up here dancing to a DJ,” Romare smiled after explaining the capacity, low-cost and availability for rent for parties, receptions, weddings and more — and by “more,” she means things like an indoor bags tournament, an upcoming Halloween costume party (Nov. 2, 8 p.m.-2 a.m.) and even Redneck Games featuring contests such as nail-driving and best lumber Jack costume, as well as a live band.

“The people in Bondurant are crazy fun. I love it,” she said. “We like to throw parties, so we’ll probably have something different up here every month.”

The everyday good time takes place downstairs, though, where bar and patio rage with locals and travelers alike. On warm days, a garage door opens to the patio, which is perfectly poised to welcome the bicycling crowd along the edging Chichaqua Valley Trail.

“This summer it’s supposed to connect to the High Trestle Trail, so we’re pretty excited about that,” said Romare, who owns the bar with her husband Joe Romare and lives in Ankeny.

After three successful years with Whiskey River on Main Street in Ames, the couple hopes to see similar small-town success as Founders approaches its second year in Bondurant. Often, they are asked, “Why Bondurant?” to which they always reply: “Why not? Bondurant needed something.”

Well, it’s got something. A charming beacon for Polk County travelers. CV

Founders Irish Pub
110 First St., Bondurant
HOURS: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily; open at 10 a.m. on Sundays with a bloody Mary breakfast ($10)
HAPPY HOUR: 3-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
KITCHEN: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily
ENTERTAINMENT: Live music as announced
CAPACITY: 120 plus patio and second floor banquet hall


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