Joe McLaughlin: water work - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Joe McLaughlin: water work

Joe McLaughlin shows how high the water got during the flood. Joe McLaughlin shows how high the water got during the flood.

by Sunny Layne

CORALVILLE (KWWL) -- You work your whole life to make your dream come true, and in just a matter of hours, water washes it away, causing nearly a million dollars in damage.

It's a familiar story after the floods of 2008, but another familiar story follows: that of people rebuilding their dreams, only this time, those dreams are stronger than ever. One eastern Iowa man is making his dream come true a second time, Joe McLaughlin, someone you should know.

Old Chicago restaurant owner Joe McLaughlin loves his job.

"I've always loved the restaurant business, interacting with staff and customers," he said.

The recent flood made McLaughlin appreciate his Coralville restaurant even more.

"Until you lose something, it's difficult to gauge how important it was to you," he said. "When we lost this restaurant and thought it maybe wouldn't get back open, it became very important that we get it open again."

In June, McLaughlin watched as nearly six and a half feet of flood water threatened to wash his life dream away.

"I'm 5 foot 9, so I would have been 7 inches under water," he said.

This restaurant-lover says he realized he had a choice.

"Your option is get together and rebuild, or give up," he said.

The flood caused $825,000 in damage. Fortunately, McLaughlin had flood insurance, which covered a great deal, but he still found himself in a $125,000 hole. After doing some laughing and crying, McLaughlin says he and his crew gutted the entire restaurant down to the studs.

"I can't even describe how bad it was in here," employee Adam Wille said. "We did a lot of work cleaning."

Wille says McLaughlin never lost perspective and led the crew with courage that left some mystified.

"It's hard to describe Joe," Wille said. "He's an amazing guy. He knows what he needs to do and gets it done as fast as possible."

"If I was in his shoes, I don't know what I would've done," customer Greg Kilberger said. "I would've walked into this place when it was flooded and said that's it. I'm done."

Regular customers like Kilberger say they held their breath hoping their favorite hangout would come back, and on September 29th, three and a half months later, it did.

"Everything that happens to you in life is an opportunity, to do what you'd hope you'd do, or fall flat on your face," McLaughlin said.

So what do you get after spending weeks working in wet conditions? McLaughlin says wisdom.

"Every day when I drive up, I'm glad to be here in the morning," he said. "I was glad to be here before, but it's more special to me now after the flood."

McLaughlin says he received a great deal of help from unexpected sources. His niece set up a web site called "," which alone raised $4,000. To Contribute to McLaughlin's recovery, visit the web site his niece created:

Online Reporter: Sunny Layne

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