Main Street: More Than A Strip Mall


Photo: Abigail Barefoot/Iowa Sta

Worldly Goods has many different types of homemade holiday ornaments that make good gifts or something to put on your personal tree.

Wendy Sloan and Jolie Monroe

Have you ever woken up on a Sunday morning craving a homemade omelet or a one-inch thick pancake? Or, are you frustrated that everyone on campus seems to have the same clothes as you? It may be time to take a trip to downtown Ames to visit the Main Street Cultural District.

Jennifer Schill, events planner for the Main Street Cultural District, said that she thinks students don’t visit Main Street for a few different reasons. One, they don’t know about Main Street. Two, they think traveling to Main Street is too difficult or time consuming. And three, they don’t realize what the shopping district has to offer.

However, Schill described several reasons why students should venture out this holiday season and take a trip to Main Street.

Main Street has unique shops

Schill said that shoppers can find a unique gift for anyone on their list if they choose to shop on Main Street. “The stores offer items that you won’t find in other stores,” she said.

Mike Rayford, sophomore in marketing, agreed that the items shoppers can find on Main Street are distinctive. “The merchandise is meaningful because not everyone else is going to have it,” he said. The selection might be more limited than what would be found at a mall, but Rayford said this is a good thing because “it makes the shopping seem more personalized.”

There is something for everyone

One common misconception about Main Street is that it is not targeted at college-aged students. However, there are many shops that offer a wide variety of merchandise for all ages. “I could find something for anyone in my family,” Rayford explained.

Schill mentioned that the shopping area provides a variety of stores that appeal to college students. The district offers restaurants, bars, chocolate stores, a cupcake place and numerous shoe stores, jewelers and clothing stores. With such a wide variety, shoppers are sure to find something for everyone on their list.

Main Street supports the local economy

Shopping on Main Street also helps the Ames community. Schill said purchasing items from Main Street puts money back in the local economy.

Rayford explained that by shopping on Main Street, students support the local businesses, and the stores offer a special family feel.

Main Street provides quality customer service

One of the appeals to Main Street is that the store owners provide personal service to their customers. Schill explained that shoppers are usually working directly with store owners while they shop. “They can help you find exactly what you’re looking for,” she said. “And, if they don’t have what you want, they will either find a way to get it to you or direct you to another store to find it.”

Besides the customer service, Rayford said he enjoys the local feel Main Street offers. Recently, Rayford went to Gilger Designs to purchase a gift. He was welcomed into the store by the owners and their dog. One of the owners walked Rayford through the sale and helped him pick out the perfect gift for his taste and price range. 

“I wasn’t treated like ‘just another customer.’ You could tell that they were really proud of their merchandise and were happy to sell it to me.”

It’s really not that difficult to get there

Main Street is less than two miles from campus. By car, it is a short ride. The shopping area offers plenty of parking along the street in front of the stores. For students who don’t want to pay for parking, Schill said, there are two-hour and four-hour free parking lots located behind the businesses.

“If you have a car there is no reason not to come,” she said. 

For students without their own means of transportation, Schill mentioned that CyRide has a stop only a few blocks away from the shops. Whichever way you need to travel to Main Street, Schill encourages students to make that effort.

“You’ll be surprised at what you find,” she said.

Schill said the district is working to increase its appeal to the student population.

“We are targeting both events and advertising to students,” she said.