Melissa Zimmer shows off the art gallery at Iron Key Studios in Old Town Peoria.
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”  — Henry David Thoreau

Four years ago a young couple came to my office to talk about an idea, actually a passion, they had for opening an arts facility in Old Town Peoria.

I was ecstatic, and began helping and encouraging them to move forward with the idea.

Sometimes dreams take a while to fulfill, but I’m happy to say that Melissa Zimmer and Scott Holmes have recently opened Iron Key Studios in the historic Hood Building on the corner of Washington Street and 83rd Avenue.

It has not been an easy road they chose to follow, but their dream was strong and their tenacity paid off. After working for months with the city, rewriting ordinances, submitting plans and doing their due diligence, the building was no longer available to them. Disappointed, they opened their business in Peoria, but not in their dream location where they envisioned bringing the arts to Old Town as a catalyst in its vitalization.

 They became members of my think tank and bonded with other like-minded folks committed to building a strong core and seeing Old Town meet its potential as a thriving arts district where families can meet, either casually for a picnic in the park, or for our Food Truck Fridays and other events.  They continued to finesse their dream, and never gave up on finding a place inIn the meantime, the Old Town arts element began to grow, both with private and city investment. Axiom and Driftwood began offering public entertainment, with Lucidi’s Distillery serving as a destination, and Food Truck Fridays and Music on the Plaza drawing families on a regular basis.

The couple never lost sight of their dream, and kept working to put a foundation under it. Then, sometimes when you least expect it, your opportunity emerges in the most unexpected way. The historic property on Washington Street became available. They jumped at the chance to open their business there, in the most premiere location in Old Town. There is still much work to be done — securing permanent licensing from the city, as well as adapting the old building for reuse as a complete arts facility.

Ms. Zimmer and Mr. Holmes have opened their gallery, Iron Key Studios, in time for the Old Town Holiday Festival, and welcomed over 400 guests through the doors. Comments were enthusiastic:  “Wow, didn’t know this was here”… “This is beautiful” … “This was needed here, we’ll be back.”

Their big plans continue with a First Friday Walk each month, including all Old Town businesses, Jan. 4.

This is truly a story of dreaming big, working toward that dream, and the tenacity to stick with it.

This is a big welcome to Ms. Zimmer and Mr. Holmes and Iron Key Studios.

Editor’s note: Ms. Hunt is the Acacia District Peoria City Councilwoman.

Melissa Zimmer 

Melissa Zimmer-Iron Key Studio

Connie Whitlock-Wham Art Association

Vicki Hunt-Peoria Councilwoman