The Czech Cottage is a small shop at the intersection of Sixteenth Avenue and C Street in Southwest Cedar Rapids. Founded in 1975 by Jitka, Virgil and Bob Schaffer (the son). Jitka was born and raised in Czechoslovakia and came to Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1947 to visit an aunt of her sister in law. During her visit, the communist government came to power in Czechoslovakia. During the year after WWII and prior to her departure for the USA, Jitka had been a civilian employee at the military air base in Plzen, with the new communist government in power, relatives warned her not be be in a hurry to return and it was very unlikely, given her time in the US, that she would get her old job back. In 1948, the borders of Czechoslovakia were closed to visitors as the government set about nationalizing all private enterprises/businesses.
In the following years, Jitka became a naturalized U.S. citizen, met and married Virgil and had two sons. In 1956, the Czechoslovak government allowed visitors and Jitka, along with two other Czech ex-patriot gal friends returned to Czechoslovakia for a visit. Jitka would continue to make annual visits to family and friends.
Over the many years of visiting Czechoslovakia, Jitka began to import antiques and when they became more scarce and expensive, she imported folk arts, glassware and garnet jewelry.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa has a rather large Czech population, most arrived around the early 1900's because of available farm land and plentiful industrial and meat packing jobs. A small business district sprang up to serve the immigrant population consisting of meat markets, grocers, blacksmith, everything you would find in a small town and it existed next to the official downtown of Cedar Rapids.
With the aging of the immigrant population and the decline of heavy industry in Cedar Rapids, this commercial district began to deteriorate. In 1974, during one of America's recessions, the remaining Czech business owners along with others of Czech ancestry began an effort to revitalize and re-brand the area and so Czech Village was born. One morning in our local paper, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Jitka read the front page article announcing this revitalization effort. She immediately convinced me (Bob) to go with her to have a look at a building that was for sale in this Czech Village.
The building was built in 1901 and was home to a series of pharmacies, Zastra, Tichy and then Ted Rejsa. The building bore the name Ted's Pharmacy from the early 1040's until 1973 when Ted's son in law Stan Travnicek sold his business to Drug Town (Hy Vee Drug). The building was then rented to several short time businesses that included used clothing and a natural foods store. We took possession of the building in July 1975 and by September, after a lot of sweat and remodeling, opened the Czech Cottage during one of the Czech Village fall festivals....