Ames downtown shops offer unknown benefits to students

Nicole Mcintosh

There is a shopping center where you can get homemade chocolates, fair trade jewelry, records from a coffee shop and shoes you thought you could only find online. Friendly owners who love what they do are there to help you find just what you need. And it’s only a mile away from campus.

The unique atmosphere of downtown Ames has tons of benefits that go undiscovered by many students until the end of their college career.

“I don’t think students wouldn’t like downtown. It’s a very unique shopping experience,” said Tim Coble, owner of Temptations and the immediate past president of the Main Street Cultural District.

He said the main problem with getting students to the downtown area is that they don’t know about it.

“Once students come downtown, they return,” said Holly Boman of Cook’s Emporium. “We have unique shops you don’t find at the mall.”

A short trip on CyRide’s Red Route will take you to downtown Ames and the Main Street Cultural District. The district just became a part of Main Street Iowa, which only 40 cities in Iowa are a part of. But Main Street owners have been working together for much longer than that.

One way many businesses have been trying to reach out to the student population is through Facebook. Their fan pages keep patrons informed on specials the stores are having and events being held in the area.

Thursdays are a popular day to head downtown. A lot of the shops stay open late so students can take their time after work or school.

The more peaceful feeling of downtown makes it a great place to study as well. The Ames Public Library, Cafe Diem, Vinyl Cafe and Stam are just a few spots with tables, Wi-Fi and a relaxing and unique studying environment.

The businesses downtown are very much a community.

“Students come down here for a pair of shoes and get several options for shoe stores, but then they also see the chocolate store and the clothing store, and everyone benefits,” Coble said.

The holidays are one way the businesses come together to hold events for the city. Halloween will find preschoolers in costumes saying their jokes for candy. Plans for Black Friday may be in the works for November, and Christmas brings tree lighting and other special holiday events.

Shop owners say they are perfect places for students to find gifts for loved ones back home. Several places offer shipping to send them home with no hassle. They also offer packages for parents to send their students gifts during Dead Week and finals, and they sell care packages throughout the year.

Main Street is also a unique, comforting place to take parents when they are in town for the weekend.

“A lot of students come from small towns and get lost in the big campus,” Coble said.

The small-town feeling of downtown can be very comforting to students who aren’t close to home.

The Main Street Cultural District offers more than just shopping. Local pubs, ethnic restaurants, coffee houses and organic grocery stores are also found in the area. Live music is not only found on the street corners, but a few of the venues have concerts with nationally known artists as well as local bands.

To find out more about downtown, check out its web page,, or look it up on Facebook. Stay tuned to the Daily for upcoming events and happening as well.