A coffee shop that played an unusual role in Iowa City history holds its grand reopening next week. Wild Bill’s Coffee Shop was the workplace of Bill Sackter, the man on whom the popular 1981 movie “Bill” was based, starring Mickey Rooney, and a documentary in 2008.
Jefri Palermo is development coordinator at the University of Iowa’s School of Social Work, and says the on-campus shop needed a major overhaul. “We had a very tiny kitchen,” Palermo says. “We didn’t have hot water. We didn’t have a dishwasher. We had no way to really function in a kitchen capacity. We busted out some walls and we’ve expanded. The whole goal is to make it wheelchair accessible.”
After months of planning and renovation, she says the shop has a brand new look, while retaining its quirky character. “Now, the coffee shop has a nice kitchen, a wheelchair accessible sink, a refrigerator was donated by the Social Work Student Association,” Palermo says. “We are ready to begin serving hot soup and sandwiches as well as gourmet coffee and pastries.”
Sackter spent 44 years in a mental institution and emerged as an international hero for people with disabilities. Palermo says many people who knew Bill will be back on campus for the January 19th reopening ceremony. She says the shop is in what used to be the kindergarten room of the old University Elementary School.
During the remodeling process, the original kindergarten floor was found and restored, along with the cubbies from the room and a variety of artifacts. Sackter died in 1983. The coffee shop is run by adults with disabilities as a service learning project in the School of Social Work at the University of Iowa. For more information, visit: “www.uiowa.edu/~socialwk/WildBills.shtml#root2“.
By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City