• Gordmans to close all Eastern Iowa stores
• Merger vote set for Western Fraternal Life
• AW Welt Ambrisco merges with Insurance Associates
• Coldwell Banker Hedges rebrands as CB North Star
• Youth basketball academy to open at Xtreme Arena
Gordmans to close all Eastern Iowa stores
Gordmans, a chain of Midwestern off-price department stores, will be closing its doors in Coralville, Cedar Rapids and Davenport by the end of May.

Going out of business signs are up at all three Eastern Iowa location and clearance sales are underway as owner Stage Stores appears to be shuttering a number of locations across the country. The company, which also operates Bealls, Goody’s, Palais Royal, Peebles and Stage retail locations, has issued no formal statement, although a Google search indicates dozens of stores announcing closures across the Midwest, including Sioux City and Des Moines here in Iowa.

Coralville store employees said they were notified of the closures last week and planned to shut down operations May 30.

Founded in 1915 and based in Omaha, Nebraska, Gordmans sells apparel and footwear for men, women and children, as well as accessories, home décor, gifts, designer fragrances, fashion jewelry, bedding and bath, accent furniture and toys. 

Gordmans, operated 106 retail stores in 22 states as of March 2017 when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Stage Stores acquired most of the chain's assets later that year and swiftly closed 48 locations, although the three Eastern Iowa stores were initially spared.

Chain Store Age reported earlier this month that Stage Stores was eying bankruptcy amid a cash crunch that led to late payment of vendors and other issues. It reportedly hired investment bank and financial services firm Peter J Solomon and law firm Kirkland & Ellis to help it refinance its bank debt.
Merger vote set for Western Fraternal Life
Fraternal life insurance companies National Mutual Benefit (NMB) and Western Fraternal Life Association (WFLA) today announced their plans to merge their more than 100-year-old organizations into a new organization.

The board of directors of both associations approved plans for consolidation of the two companies in January 2020. WFLA delegates will need to approve the proposed consolidation through a vote in May.

The newly combined organization will have more than 65,000 members across the Midwest, West and South and will have approximately $2 billion of life insurance and annuities in force. It will be headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin.

“Both NMB and WFLA are financially healthy companies with rich fraternal traditions,” NMB President and CEO Dan Shinnick stated in news release. “Our goal is to become a stronger, more vibrant organization that will continue to protect and serve our current and future members for years to come.”

Western Fraternal Life Association, based in Cedar Rapids, has been in operation since 1897, when it was organized as a fraternal benefit association around the common bond of maintaining the heritage of Czech and Slovak immigrants. In 2015, it had 38,500 members in 18 western states.

If approved, Mr. Shinnick, and WFLA’s President and CEO, Craig Van Dyke, will lead the new organization through the transition. In a news release, it said the consolidation of equals will create new opportunities to invest in future growth and allow for greater impact in the communities where NMB and WFLA members live.

“The new company will continue rich traditions of protecting members and supporting members’ communities as we have both done for over 117 years. Our history and heritage are important and would remain a focal point in our new company,” said Mr. Van Dyke.

The consolidation between the two organizations is intended to occur on Jan. 1, 2021, with integration to be completed throughout the year.
AW Welt Ambrisco merges with Insurance Associates
AW Welt Ambrisco Insurance and Insurance Associates of Iowa City have completed the merger of their firms, rebranding as Relion Insurance Solutions .
Company officials announced the finalized merger this morning, noting the combined entity will now be among the 10 largest independent insurance agencies in Iowa.
“Every member of the two merging staffs, along with the commitment to quality service and coverage remains intact," said Relion Insurance Solutions President Scott Enyart in a release. "In fact, we have grown to add career opportunities in our Iowa City, Iowa Falls, Kalona, and Muscatine offices. In addition, we now offer specialized loss control services, supporting commercial clients with workplace safety programming and solutions.”

Relion will provide personal and commercial insurance clients with additional services, offer co-workers greater opportunity for growth and advancement, and maintain status as a Trusted Choice independent insurance agency.

Through the merger process, we determined the commitment we make to our clients ultimately comes down to three key elements: relationships, reliability, and action," said Executive Vice President of Sales Kyle Austen, explaining the genesis of the new brand. "Our new brand, along with our statement, ‘Your purpose, protected’ illustrates the mission of our new team of more than 50 employees.”
Relion has offices in Iowa City, Iowa Falls, Kalona and Muscatine.
Coldwell Banker Hedges rebrands as CB North Star
Coldwell Banker Hedges Realty has unveiled a new look, rolling out new office signage, yard signs and marketing materials as part of a full network-wide rebrand.

The new CB North Star logo symbolizes "both the mark of excellence and the beacon that people have used to guide them to the place they cherish most – home," the company said in a release. The more than 100-year-old firm said it hoped the new logo would position it as a consistent, reliable presence now and into the future.

“This rebrand gives us an exciting opportunity to tell the Coldwell Banker Hedges Realty story,” said Coldwell Banker Hedges Realty Chairman Carl Esker. “As a locally owned company, we’ve been quietly serving our community for over 125 years while growing our real estate family to over 125 agents. We’re excited to start the new decade with a new-modern upbeat logo that helps launch us forward for the next 125 years.”

President Mike Esker said the new visual identity would allow the company to reintroduce itself to the market.

"We are excited to continue our journey and start another chapter in our real estate story," he said. "Even in the ever-changing real estate landscape, our agents remain a constant, guiding our clients as they navigate the real estate market. We can’t wait to leverage the fresh visual of Project North Star and believe this new look will shine like no other and be recognized as a symbol of excellence in our community.”
Coldwell Banker Hedges Realty is the longest continuously operated real estate firm in Iowa with four locations in the Cedar Rapids/Corridor area.

IMAGE: Coldwell Banker Hedges Realty celebrated its rebrand as CB North Star at a launch event in Cedar Rapids. IMAGE CB NORTH STAR
Youth basketball academy to open at Xtream Arena
All Iowa Attack will open its second youth basketball academy statewide at the GreenState Family Fieldhouse under an agreement in principle with Spectra, operators of Xtream Arena and GreenState Family Fieldhouse, on behalf of ArenaCo.

Spectra’s partnership with All Iowa Attack provides GreenState Family Fieldhouse as the exclusive Eastern Iowa home for the academy to conduct practices and tournaments in Coralville. Programs for fourth through eighth grade boys and girls teams will kick off the fall/winter 2020 season, followed by the ninth through 11th grade boys and girls teams in the spring/summer 2021.

All Iowa Attack, established in Ames in 2004, will have teams based out of both Ames and Coralville, and share a unified vision.

“Our goal as a program is to provide an educational, competitive basketball program for third through 11th grade boys and girls across the state,” said All-Iowa Attack Program Director Blake Jensen in a release. “By adding a second location in Coralville, we will be able to extend our reach across the state, allowing more athletes to be a part of the Attack program and to take advantage of the opportunities that it provides.”

Spectra’s Michael Rooney, Fieldhouse Director for GreenState Family Fieldhouse, said the addition would help the facility become an economic driver for Coralville and Eastern Iowa as part of the Iowa River Landing District. The fieldhouse will also host Coralville Parks and Recreation programs, tournaments for other sports, and camps and clinics throughout the year.

The arena and 53,000-square-foot fieldhouse is set to open in August 2020.

“The City of Coralville thanks the All-Iowa Attack for expanding to Eastern Iowa and opening a location within the GreenState Family Fieldhouse,” said Coralville Mayor John Lundell. “This partnership will be a major factor in bringing additional visitors to our city to experience all we have to offer.”
Short Term Event Planner

Feb. 25
MEDCO Onboarding Social , by Marion Economic Development Corp., 4:30-5:30 p.m., Brick Alley Pub, 1038 Seventh Ave., Marion. Learn about MEDCO’s role in the community and hear timely public policy updates. Free. To register, visit .

Business Start-Up Basics Seminar , by SCORE of East Central Iowa, 6-8 p.m. Tuesdays, Feb. 25, March 3 and March 10, Kirkwood Linn County Regional Center, 1770 Boyson Road, Hiawatha. Learn the process for growing a business from an idea to a viable venture. Cost: $59. To register, visit .

Feb. 26
1 Million Cups , by 1MC Cedar Rapids, 8:15-9:15 a.m., Geonetric, 415 12th Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids. Join for community connections, free coffee and presentations by entrepreneurs, established companies, experts and more. Free. For more information, visit .

1 Million Cups , by 1MC Iowa City, 9-10 a.m., MERGE, 136 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City. Join for community connections, free coffee and presentations by entrepreneurs, established companies, experts and more. Free. For more information, visit .

Women on the Rise Book Club , by Jennifer Zach, 12:15-1 p.m., Dash Coffee Roasters, 509 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids. Discuss Adam Grant’s “Give and Take – Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.” Free. To register, visit .

New Member Mixer , by Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, 4-6 p.m., Amish Connection, 1426 Twixt Town Road, Marion. Meet and mingle with new members of the Economic Alliance. Free. To register, visit .

Feb. 27
Small Business Roundtable , by SCORE of East Central Iowa, 7:30-9 a.m., Scott’s Family Restaurant, 1906 Blairs Ferry Road NE, Cedar Rapids. This networking opportunity is for those in business or those thinking of starting a business. Free. To register, visit .

State of the Schools , by Iowa City Area Business Partnership and Iowa City Area Development Group, 7:30-9 a.m., Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City. The business community and local educational leaders will meet to discuss K-12 education challenges and opportunities. Free. To register, visit .

PWN Networking Power Hour , by Professional Women’s Network, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., PCI Medical Pavilion, Third Floor, 202 10th St. SE, Cedar Rapids. Spend an hour sharing wins, upcoming community events and networking. Cost: $15 for members, $25 for guests. To register, visit .

BLICC Meeting , by the Business League of Iowa’s Creative Corridor, 11:45 a.m.-1 p.m., Tin Roost, 840 W. Penn St., North Liberty. Speakers will include Kalvin Grabau Keele, managing partner at Northwestern Mutual, and Arica Ohloff, owner of Arica Ohloff Coaching & Consulting. Free. To register, visit .
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Headlines from KCRG-TV9
These news items are provided by KCRG-TV9  
Jurors in the murder trial of Jerry Burns will hear the first of closing arguments beginning today. Burns is accused of killing Cedar Rapids teenager Michelle Martinko more than 40 years ago. Prosecutors say Burns stabbed Martinko several times inside her family's car outside Westdale Mall. Investigators used DNA to connect Burns to the crime. He was arrested in 2018. On Friday, Burns' attorney called for a mistrial after a prosecutor asked the witness if it was Burns' blood that connects him to the crime scene. His attorney argued the prosecution shouldn't have said definitively that it was Burns' blood. The judge rejected the request.

The Iowa City Police Department said City Manager Geoff Fruin named Captain Bill Campbell to serve as interim police chief. Campbell's appointment comes after the departure of current Police Chief Jody Matherly. Matherly announced his retirement earlier in February. Campbell has been a member of the Iowa City Police Department since April 1990. He served as a patrol officer and field training officer before being promoted to sergeant in December 1996. This is not Campbell's first time serving as interim chief. He also filled the position in 2016. His work also includes working with the Iowa City Community School District to design and implement an emergency response plan.

These news items are provided by KCRG-TV9
Your KCRG-TV9 First Alert Forecast
Plan on a mainly quiet day with clouds building.   Highs will be in the low-mid 40s and we can't discount a few rain showers south of I-80 as low pressure slowly passes by to the south.   A second system will arrive from the northwest tomorrow which should cause additional snow showers to develop through the day.   At this time, no heavy snow is anticipated through much of our area with little to no snow over the northwest and only one to three inches over our central and northeast zones by the time it exits Wednesday morning.   Locations along and south of I-80 remain the question with the potential for three to six inches there, though the high end of that range may very well be over extreme southeast Iowa or even western Illinois.   Wind will increase behind the system as well, bringing colder temperatures for the rest of the week.