Kleist brothers unite in revitalizing Pearl Plaza with bar, barbecue

Brothers Cord and Chance Kleist have recently opened Skinny’s Barbeque and Proof Social in Muscatine’s Pearl Plaza. Photo by Jim Elias

“Our Old Fashions have people really excited,” said Chance Kleist, proprietor of the recently opened Proof Social in Muscatine’s Pearl Plaza.

While Kleist refers to the classic cocktail he serves at his new place, there’s nothing old fashioned about the new developments found in the long-time downtown Muscatine retail center.

Originally built circa 1870, the building was redeveloped and opened Pearl Plaza in 2003 as a mixed-use retail, commercial and residential project. Today the building is home to condominiums on the third floor; commercial offices on the second floor; and retail shops, restaurants and a cocktail bar on the first floor.

In addition to Proof Social, which opened in late November, Skinny’s Barbeque was opened in September by Cord Kleist, aka Skinny and brother to Chance.  Skinny’s specializes in craft barbecue featuring smoked brisket, chicken and pork along with homemade sides dishes made fresh daily.

“I just love food,” Cord Kleist says about why he chose to open a barbeque restaurant.  “I found really cool barbeque on Instagram like that in Austin, so I pushed Dad about it.  He said to put a business plan together, so I did. I pitched it to him, and the rest is history.”

When the Kleist brothers talk of ‘Dad’ they refer to their father, Mike “Boonie” Kleist, who along with his wife Teresa own Boonie’s On the Avenue and Wine Nuts.  Wine Nuts is also located in the Pearl Plaza and now can also be accessed from a newly opened staircase found in Proof Social.

The Kleist clan collectively is all about reinvigorating downtown.

“We want to help create a downtown and an atmosphere where people don’t feel like they have to go out of town to find a comfortable place to socialize,” said Chance.

Cord says, “I think we’re good for the whole block.”  He believes Bobby’s Asian Cuisine and Chicharo’s Tequila Bar across the street as well as the other Pearl Plaza businesses can all work together to help revitalize the West end of Muscatine’s 2nd Street.

“It’s wonderful what they’ve done with the three places,” says Kathy Crosley, owner of The Hall Tree Boutique in Pearl Plaza.  She’s thrilled to see how having Skinny’s, Proof Social and Wine Nuts can all help create more foot traffic for the downtown retail shopping district.

The atmosphere at Proof Social is what Chance Kleist and his father have worked hard to create.  He said he’s striving for a classic, comfortable place where guests can have relaxing conversation while enjoying a classic craft cocktail or one of his 48 craft beers on tap.

The Kleist brothers point out they’re excited about being able to cater to a variety of private parties and corporate gatherings with their new businesses.  Wine Nuts continues to be available for private bookings and inside Proof Social are two other rooms which can be used for private gatherings.  Skinny’s plans to have a special menu for Proof Social guests, Wine Nuts offers pizza, and they’ll even order takeout from Boonie’s On The Avenue.

While getting to know the younger Kliests, one can’t help but see the lessons learned from their long-time business-owning parents.

“Keep a clean place, be caring, and say ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ are the secrets to success,” says Chance Kleist. “It takes a lot of care to constantly tend to the needs of others.  You got to want to do it.”

“We really play well off each other,” adds Cord. “But nothing will work if people don’t support it.”

Like all business owners in Downtown Muscatine, the Kleists are looking forward to lots of support from local residents and out-of-town visitors alike.