Iowa City’s Bluebird is a decade old

10 years ago, owners Hart Gepstein and Jon Wilson developed an idea for Bluebird Diner and now reflect upon its growth.


The Bluebird Diner is seen on Saturday, December 9, 2018. (Michael Guhin/The Daily Iowan).

Alexandra Skores, News Reporter

After 10 years of serving breakfast food to the Iowa City community, Bluebird Diner, 330 E. Market St, celebrated its 10th anniversary with the Iowa City community on Dec. 8.

Just a little over 10 years ago, Bluebird owner Jon Wilson found himself unemployed with no job prospects, waiting for an opportunity to find a new start. When the Market Street building was put up for sale, he immediately jumped on the opportunity to start something new.

Owners Hart Epstein and Wilson, who describe themselves as “longtime Iowa City people,” had known each other through friends of friends, but never would have thought to team up to become partners. With the purchase of the building and an idea in mind, they soon established Bluebird Diner.

“We showed Iowa City in the last 10 years that breakfast didn’t have to be traditional ‘country kitchen’ greasy food,” Epstein said. “We made our food a little more upscale than the stereotype.”

Saturday evening brought mimosas and snacks to celebrating community members.

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“A big thank-you goes out the Iowa City community for supporting us over the years,” Epstein said.

Epstein and Wilson said Bluebird has attracted many different types of customers over the years.

“Our customers come from all over,” Wilson said. “We don’t really draw more of one group than another.”

Bluebird has many regulars who Epstein and Wilson know on a first-name basis, alongside a staff with a good mixture of the community.

One staff member, Chad Clark, has worked at Bluebird for around three years and loved every second of it.

“I absolutely love working here,” he said. “The food is amazing, the coworkers are amazing, and I get insurance to work here — which is a big thing for me as a waiter.”

Wilson said he would attribute the last 10 years’ success to the location of the restaurant and how convenient it is for the Iowa City community.

“We worked in the business day in and day out,” Wilson said. “The location helped immensely, but we were also able to watch the place grow over time.”

Epstein said Bluebird’s opening 10 years ago helped fill a void in the community.

“I think whether or not the community knew it, we were filling a need for them 10 years ago,” Epstein said. “They really warmed up to us pretty quickly.”

Wilson and Epstein said that, alongside their traditional breakfast food, Bluebird’s coffee is often a fan favorite. Many will take a bag of the coffee grounds to go.

“Just about 90 percent, if not more, of our food is homemade,” Epstein said. “We do just about everything we can from scratch and try to limit buying things from a truck.”

Wilson and Epstein said the last 10 years have been fun, from getting to know their staff to becoming a part of the Iowa City community.

“It has been a blast,” Epstein said. “I can’t believe it has been 10 years. This restaurant started as a dream come true to an opportunity to make a living out of it. We are very thankful for where we are today.”