Photo: Abigail Barefoot/Iowa State Daily
Want to get away from the chaos and hustle of the busy malls this holiday season? With its wide selection and local feel, downtown Ames makes for the perfect place to get everyone on your gift list crossed off. Check out the categories below for a weekend’s worth of shopping and entertainment in the Main Street area. The local shops offer hours of fun and a variety of unique products and services.
In addition to trendy resale clothing items, The Loft also sells new jewelry, said manager Tiffany Walker. During the month of December, The Loft is buying winter clothes and prom dresses. It’ll accept winter coats and heavy sweaters, plus the store take take jeans, pants and cocktail dresses all year long.
At The Loft, you can find “today’s fashion at half the price,” Walker said. She said the store has more than 650 jeans in stock, and the entire database of merchandise is available online at www.theloftatdww.com.
Moorman Clothiers is the only store in Ames that offers merchandise of its kind. Manager Dave Swanson explained that the selection and products are very unique, and customer service is the employees’ first priority.
“Here you will get the customer service you won’t necessarily get at a big store,” Swanson said. “We help our customers pick out what they want — not just say ‘hi,'” he said.
For a holiday party outfit, or any occasion, check out Moorman Clothiers for its upper-end merchandise with welcoming customer service.
Miss Meyer’s Consignment
Looking for a holiday gift that no one else will have? Miss Meyer’s consignment shop offers consigned clothing and accessories, along with jewelry from local artists. Owner Katherine Kerns said it is the perfect place for a student to take their mom or grandma when they are in town, because it makes for a perfect girls’ day out.
Lazy M Shoes
Cal Dunshee, owner of Lazy M shoes, joined the shoe store one year after it opened. He’s been with the business for almost 40 years now. Dunshee calls Lazy M shoes the “one-stop shoe store.” He said it offers men’s, women’s and children’s shoes, making it a “family shoe store.”
Dunshee explained that Lazy M keeps up with current trends and fashions, so it will appeal to ISU students. “We offer trendier shoes,” he said.
This season, Dunshee estimated that his top sellers are Uggs, Paladian and OBTB.
Dunshee said customers will get quality personal service at his store. “We help our customers through the whole process.”
The fun colors and personable staff at Quilting Connection are sure to bring you out of a winter weather slump. The employees describe their shop as warm and cheery. Owner Kelly Irwin explained that each customer gets very personal attention throughout his/her experience at the shop. For inspiration on a new project, or just to visit a warm environment, stop by Quilting Connection and have a chat with one of the friendly employees.
If you’re looking for unique gifts created by skilled artisans from around the world, then you’ll want to stop in to Worldly Goods this holiday season. The nonprofit retail store provides a fair trade marketplace for artisans from more than 40 different countries. Many of the unique items in Worldly Goods are recycled products, including oil drums that have been hammered into wall art, recycled tire tread crafted into picture frames and beads dug out of clay from the earth.
The store is run by more than 70 volunteers. These volunteers can share personal stories about the artisans who crafted every item. “There’s a unique story with everything,” Melanie Christian, manager of Worldly Goods, said. “When you buy gifts from this store you’re giving twice. You’re helping the artisan in the other country along with getting a gift for someone else.”
Skunk River Cycles
Along with services and repairs for your bike, Skunk River also offers bikes, bike accessories, apparel and fitness products. Owner Ronn Ritz explained that his shop is a full service bike shop, which is a unique find. Its website, www.skunkrivercycles.com, is a good source of product information, events and resources offered for cyclists.
According to store manager Derrick Gorsch, the holidays are a good time to purchase instruments as gifts. Whether you’re purchasing a “first instrument” for someone or treating yourself, Rieman Music will have you covered.
“We don’t just sell products, we will set it up and make sure it’s ready to play,” Gorsch said.
The employees at Rieman Music make sure you are ready to go home and play the instrument without any set up or hassle. Anything you purchase at store comes with this service as an extra touch.
Octagon Center for the Arts
Besides having a wide range of affordable gifts featuring more than 125 Midwest artists, The Octagon Shop also has award-winning kids games and puzzles, too. Heather Johnson, executive director of the Octagon Center for the Arts, suggested shoppers purchase gift cards from the art center. “You can give people a gift certificate toward an educational class,” she said. “If you know someone who’s always wanted to try an art class, this is a great way for them to express their creativity.”
The art center gets its name because it originally opened in an octagon-shaped building in 1966. “The building was unsafe, so we had to move out in the late ’60s,” Johnson said.
Now, the shop is nestled among the shops in downtown Ames.
To check someone off of your holiday shopping list or to pick up a little something special for yourself, check out the unique designs of Gilger Designs. Owner Michael Gilger explained that it is the premiere place to shop for fresh designs. “We’re known for high-quality products, and we deliver,” Gilger said.
The store also offers ISU products; so make sure to stop by to pick up a specialized Iowa State pin or pendant for game day or to show your school spirit.
According to co-owner Karen Youngberg, the jewelry store has something for everyone. You could find a gift priced anywhere from $20 to $200,000. The family-owned business was started almost 35 years ago by Gary Youngberg.
Karen Youngberg said Ames Silversmithing has the largest and biggest selection of stones in the state of Iowa. “We handpick the majority of our stones,” she said.
At Ames Silversmithing, you get more than just a quality piece of jewelry — you also get an education. “We educate our consumer in the diamond process. We emphasize education over a sale,” Youngberg said.
For your boutique jewelry needs, Nature’s Touch will have you covered. The store features more than 60 artists from all over the globe. Former ISU professor and current owner of Nature’s Touch Pat Redlinger said most of the items range from $2 to $75, so it is easy to find a unique gift for less than $50. The store has unique bags, accessories and even ornaments from places like the Philippines for your holiday needs.
After spending the day on your feet, you’ll be ready to relax and sit down with a cool beverage. London Underground is the perfect place for that. The English-style pub is the only bar in Ames without televisions.
Chris Olds, bartender at London Underground, said the owner believes in maintaining an environment that encourages people to act and talk to each other. “People come for conversations,” Olds said.
Olds recommended that guests try one of their import beers. She said they have about 45 different types. “The bartenders are knowledgeable about our beers. If you tell them what you normally like and they’ll find something for you,” she said.
The low-key, chill atmosphere draws a diverse crowd. Olds said a lot of students and faculty members from Iowa State come to the London Underground to work or study. Olds said she used to be one of those students, which is how she got her job there.
Corner Pocket/DG’s Taphouse
Justin Echternacht, manager of Cornerpocket, said his establishment is a perfect place for holiday shoppers to visit when they need a break from their shopping. Shoppers can “have a couple drinks and play a few games a pool,” Echternacht said.
Besides having multiple pool tables for customers, the bar has the only 12-foot public snooker table in all of Iowa. Snooker is a cue sport invented in the 1800s by British Army Officers stationed in India.
“We’re not just a pool hall,” Echternacht said, “We’re a full service bar. We have seven TVs with an NFL package, plus we have free pool on Sundays.”
One of the regulars at Sportsman, Tom, suggested people stop into the bar and “have a drink while they’re shopping to ease tension.” He suggested trying the bar’s holiday drink special, an Eggnog and Brandy.
Happy hour at Sportsman Lounge is Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. Besides a good drink, the bar also has high-definition TVs, which usually are broadcasting sports programs. Tom said the bar subscribes to NFL Sunday ticket, so football is usually on during the weekends.
At Sportsman Lounge, Tom said holiday shoppers will find “good, local people.”
How many people can say they’ve had the best breakfast in Iowa? According to the Food Network Magazine July/August 2010 issue, The Grove was chosen as Iowa’s best breakfast joint. Varieties of fluffy inch-thick pancakes, homemade syrup and omelets, along with much more are all available at the cozy restaurant.
Every so often there is a new specialty pancake, and each Sunday the cafe features a specialty omelet. Owner Larry Goodale explained that the weekend before Christmas, a special chocolate-covered cherry pancake will be available. The friendly staff and open kitchen make you feel right at home. After one bite, you will want to be a regular.
Olde Main Brewing Co.
If you’ve never been to Olde Main before, you should try their signature dish, chicken tortellini, said Heather Courtney, marketing director. “It’ll never change because it’s so popular,” she said. “It’s delightful and very rich.”
While you’re there, you have to try one of the specialty beers they brew in the restaurant. During the holidays, Olde Main has a special Reindeer Fuel Chocolate Porter, which has 45 pounds of chocolate infused in it.
If you’re in the mood for something sweet after dinner, Courtney suggested ordering from their dessert menu. “We make all of our own desserts,” she said.
While the Olde Main cheesecake is the signature dessert, Courtney mentioned that their carrot cake is “to die for as well.”
The Ames Cupcake Emporium
For lunch, followed by an afternoon treat, head to Cupcake Emporium. The shop offers lunch items such as soup and sandwiches, along with six options of cupcakes that change daily. The cupcakes are baked fresh everyday. The most popular flavors are white chocolate raspberry and peanut butter cup, said Tawnya Verr, the owner of Cupcake Emporium.
Lynn’s Car and Pet Wash
While doing some holiday shopping on Main Street, make sure to get some errands done, too. Run your car through Lynn’s Car and Pet Wash. Available services include a touch less laser automatic self-serve bay, a large vehicle bay and conveniently enough, a self-serve pet wash, said owner Ryan Davis.
The Groom Room
Men looking for some pampering should stop by The Groom Room for their next haircut. “Our signature service is the hot towel neck shave with a message afterwards,” said owner Troy Tinnean.
The service comes with every haircut. Another relaxing aspect of the men’s hair salon is that all of the products sold are the same brand — American Crew. “It makes it a one-stop shop for a guy. Get a haircut and pick up hair products all in one place,” Tinnean said.
The convenience and special services at The Groom Room allow men to relax while getting that haircut checked off of the “to-do” list.