OTTUMWA — Rick Hindsley knows an opportunity when he sees one.
“When you’re in business, you try to think about what you can do to promote something people might like,” he said.
Hindsley, owner and operator of Thumbs Up Awards, has been personalizing bricks he collected from the former site of St. Joseph Hospital. He’s marketing them toward people with some connection to the building, such as those who were born, worked or went to nursing school there.
Demolition of the hospital finished earlier this year after a long period of inactivity. The site is now planned to be used for the construction of a housing development and park.
The idea came to Hindsley when a man brought a brick in hoping to have it cleaned and engraved for a friend. Hindsley immediately went and collected 50 of his own.
“I thought if he likes it, somebody else might,” Hindsley said.
Hindsley, who grew up in Ohio, said he didn’t have the same connection with the hospital many others did. He only stepped inside a few times while working for the Eldon Fire Department and never went past the emergency room. However, he understood how significant the building was to many in the community.
“I know it was a landmark, but the logic of it was it just wasn’t feasible to keep it because of the cost of all the asbestos and everything. I took asbestos schooling a few years back, and it’s pretty nasty stuff. The cost to get rid of it would be prohibitive,” he said. “Not being a native here, I didn’t have the connection that a lot of people that have grown up here did, so I could stand back and look at it from an outsider’s point of view.”
The bricks are in limited supply, and Hindsley doesn’t think he’ll be able to get any more once he runs out. They come with three lines of engraving for $25, and more can be added for an additional cost.
“Hopefully with Christmas coming, people will think it’s a neat idea for the hard-to-get person,” he said.
Thumbs Up Awards is located at 833 Church St., and can be reached by phone at 641-684-0338. They are open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.