STORY BY SARAH GROSSMAN
Just east of Drake University is the Dogtown area.
Dogtown is a well-known area for Drake students because of its convenience.
Students can walk right off campus to various establishments: Mars Cafe, Jimmy John’s and so forth.
While this area has been developed for some time now, it has drastically changed over the last 10 years.
Denise Mahon, owner of Varsity Theater, has seen many of these changes occur. Her family has run the theater since 1954
“I’ve seen a lot of growth,” Mahon said. “It used to be, the students were almost afraid to go past 25th. It just seems, as far as shops and restaurants, that things have really expanded.”
Susan Hanson is another owner who has seen the changes of Dogtown. She owns Second-hand Rose Antiques.
“I came in 1990 to teach French and Literature at Drake,” Hanson said. “I opened it about two years after the department disbanded. I’ve been collecting things for quite some time. I looked for a place on my own, and this building had been vacant for a couple years.”
The majority of growth has occurred over the last 10 years or so, when businesses started moving into the area.
Another such business that moved in at this time was Mars, which although it has switched owners, still remains in the same place.
Daniel Bosom, one of the five owners, has been with Mars for about eight years, although he became an owner about three years ago.
“When we started nine years ago, I think it was kind of at the very beginning of some of the revitalization of this building and this block of businesses,” Bosom said. “We’ve seen a lot of these businesses fill in as far. We’ve seen more Drake students getting out of campus.”
Students, although patrons of these establishments, can fail to see the importance of their business on the surrounding areas.
“Sometimes, I’m not sure if the students know we are here or not,” Mahon said. “We’ve always had a lot of faculty and staff that patronize the theater. For students, it just really depends on what we are playing. It seems like if we can get them to come in freshman year, they will come throughout their years at
While that may be true, the owners have seen a shift in student activity around the Dogtown area.
“I think Drake students have been getting off campus a lot whether it’s over here or by the Drake apartments they put in by Scooters, and the sushi place over there,” Bosom said. “I think Drake as a campus has been expanding which is nice to have places for students to go.”
With Lefty’s opening in the upcoming weeks, more places are available for students to patronize.
“I think it’s a great neighborhood,” Hanson said. “I live close by and I love this, and I just wish we could get a few more fun places.”
Her wish might be coming true, and as the traditions of Dogtown grow, they will also continue.
“It’s just kind of amazing how grand kids will be bringing their kids and their grandkids third generations are coming to the theater,” Mahon said. “Its just kind of special that they are continuing to support us.”
There might be a need for increased business from students, but these owners believe there is a bright future in store for Dogtown.
“I think we are here to stay,” Mahon said. “We’ve been in 76 years, before that the theater was around the corner back in the 1930s. We are here to stay.”
Varsity Theater is having a showing April 27 open to Drake students.