When Hawkeye Stages owners Steve and Kari Tjossem purchased a vacant car dealership they brought another new business to the increasingly diverse economic landscape that currently makes up Newton.
The Tjossems also expanded their brand recognition and their share of the marketplace in Iowa’s motorcoach and charter bus tour bus industry. Mayor Mike Hansen also designated the company the official motorcoach and charter bus tour company of Newton for 2013 and dubbed last Thursday, “Hawkeye Stage Day.”
“We’ve been in the bus business since 1954,” Steve said. “We started up in Decorah. We actually stared as Scenic Hawkeye Stages.”
Steve explained what Hawkeye Stages does.
“We provide transportation for groups,” Steve said. “Let’s say a college has a team that needs to get somewhere. They would call us and charter a bus from us just for their group. We provide the motorcoach, or bus, and the driver.”
Hawkeye Stages is still a family company and Steve is the third Tjossem to run the show. His grandfather founded the company and his father had worked with the company from 1954 until he retired a few years ago.
The company used to have a different priority in its early days.
“Years ago, when we first started, what we did primarily was the line runs,” Steve said. “Like the Greyhound, where the individual just gets a ticket and goes from Cedar Rapids to Rochester. (We) did the charter work since the late ’50s. But we had to drop the line runs back in the mid-’90s.”
Steve said they weren’t trying to compete with Greyhound or some of the other bigger line-run bus companies.
“We were just doing more local stuff,” Steve said. “Greyhound runs across I-80 and we did Cedar Rapids up through Decorah or Rochester … we were more of a feeder to the bigger lines like Greyhound. That’s probably the best way to put it.”
The first tour that Hawkeye Stages sold was the 1959 Rose Bowl, which featured the Iowa Hawkeyes versus the California Golden Bears.
“Our company made all the arrangements — the lodging, the tickets and sold a tour package to individuals,” Steve said. “We are still doing that now. We have a tour company that goes back to the late ’50s.”
“We go all over; we don’t take them all by bus,” Steve said. “We have groups that go to Alaska, we do New York City quite a bit, Washington D.C. is quite popular, Florida — those would be some of the most popular ones. We’re expanding more. We do Hawaii. Not everything is tied to the bus anymore like it used to be.”
Steve has worked with the company his whole life in various roles, but didn’t go full time until after he graduated from college in 1986. He also said his father still pops in every Friday for about 45 minutes to check up on the company.
The company has depots all over Iowa, and Steve believes the Newton location will thrive.
“We have hopes of building our business in this location,” Steve said. “We are already doing quite a bit of the charter bus work here. What we really want to work at is growing the tour business out of this location.”
“Existing in the same building as the (Newton Convention and Visitors Bureau), that can’t hurt any of us,” Steve said jokingly. “It’s good for them and it’s good for us. Everybody knew that when we made that decision to have them come here. They knew it would be some advantages too.”
The depot/office building has been remodeled to state-of-the-art condition after sitting empty for several years. Steve said they purposely got more room than they would need in hopes of renting out the extra office space to other possible tenants.
While Hawkeye Stages may be new to the community, the company is foreseeing big things in Newton for the future.
“We are hoping to grow our business and to offer a few more jobs,” Steve said. “We feel good about the investment we made in the property. We just hope to build our business and generate jobs. It’s good for us and good for the community if we can.”
Hawkeye Stages is located at 300 E. 17th Street S. and may be reached at (641) 792-3232.
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or firstname.lastname@example.org.