AJ and Gracie Platt are Iowa natives—in fact, they met as students at the University of Northern Iowa—but they didn’t consider moving back to their home state until their daughter, Cece (Cecelia), grew big enough to need a yard to play in. “We’d been in Chicago for a decade and really enjoyed everything the city has to offer—especially the food, ” says AJ, then a brewer at Goose Island Beer Company. “But we knew we couldn’t afford a house with a yard there. When a property would go on the market on our street, we would laugh all over again at the $1.5M listing price.”
The Platts were also concerned about safety for their growing family. When a neighboring apartment in their building was vandalized, they knew it was time to move. Soon after, AJ landed the position of cellarman at the acclaimed Toppling Goliath Brewery in Decorah.
Immediately upon their arrival in summer 2018, AJ and Gracie tuned in to Decorah’s vitality. “For one thing, you can walk almost everywhere you need to go—something we really appreciated about the city, too—but here, people smile at you and wave,” Gracie explains. “And they might not even know you personally! There’s just a friendly and generous spirit about this place.”
The community’s commitment to quality education also resonated. “I was shocked by how many good options Decorah offers for preschool,” says Gracie, who worked as an early childhood teacher in Chicago. “When I found out Kinderhaus is designed to get kids outdoors to enjoy the natural beauty of this area, I knew we had to get involved.” Gracie is now director of Kinderhaus, a Waldorf-inspired outdoor preschool and kindergarten, with its campus based at Good Shepherd Church in Decorah. She’s also thrilled that Decorah public schools consistently rank among the best in the state.
With two new jobs and a child under age 3 when they arrived, the Platts sought out flexible, full-time childcare. “I will admit, it was stressful,” says Gracie, who was relieved when Cece was offered enrollment in the toddler room at Sunflower Child Care Center. “If I can recommend anything to families moving to the area, it’s to do your research on childcare.”
“And real estate,” adds AJ. “We didn’t have a lot of time to look before we arrived, and at that point, in the summer, the home rental market was slim.” Get in touch with realtors right away, he suggests, and start following community news and for-sale-by-owner listings in DecorahNow.com, an online events calendar and marketplace.
In a year, the Platt family has found something new to love with each season. In summer, it’s pizza nights, picnicing on the grass at Luna Valley Farm. In spring and fall, it’s hiking and watching the flowers bloom and foliage change in the Decorah Community Prairie & Butterfly Garden. They look forward to canoeing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing as Cece grows.
“It’s the pool, and the bike trail, the library—especially the Toys Go Round toy lending program—and…” AJ whispers, out of Cece’s earshot, “…the Whippy Dip.” “We look forward to getting to know more people,” Gracie adds with a laugh, “and embracing the small-town nature of Decorah.”