Shop local: Main Street businesses offer ‘unique’ gifts, personal customer service

Madison Martin

The Main Street Cultural District is a great place to shop smart by shopping small and avoiding the chaos of larger stores.

Main Street offers a variety of shops for gifts for every member of the family, restaurants to stop in and refuel and bars to wind down after a long day of shopping.

Jess Clyde, president of the Main Street Cultural District and owner of London Underground, said Main Street has some of the best boutique shopping in town.

“There are a lot of local business owners that have a lot of very specific merchandise that you can’t find a lot of places,” Clyde said.

Not only will the shops on Main Street provide great gifts, but shopping locally also allows money to go back into the Ames economy and offers the small-town feel larger stores don’t necessarily offer, Clyde said.

Ames Silversmithing has been a part of downtown Ames since 1976 and offers a variety of products from wedding and engagement rings to moderately priced silver jewelry for students on a budget.

“We can’t be everything to everyone,” said Gary Youngberg, owner of Ames Silversmithing. “Specifically addressing the students at Iowa State, I would say the bridal business for us. People are getting engaged, they need wedding bands and engagement rings.”

Worldly Goods, the district’s fair trade shop, sells clothes, coffee, jewelry, toys, musical instrument and much more from across the world.

Gilger Designs Jewelry and Art is locally owned by jewelers who make everything themselves.

“We have something for everyone,” said Mike Gilger, owner of the shop.“We have sterling, silver that’s contemporary. We have beautiful pearls — freshwater and saltwater.”

When searching for a great clothing gift, several clothing stores are located in downtown, including Moorman Clothiers.

David Swanson, general manager of Moorman Clothiers, said the shop has a variety of merchandise, quality and personal customer service downtown that can’t be found anywhere else. 

“We have jeans to casual slacks to dress pants and woven shirts to sweaters to sweatshirts,” Swanson said.

Clyde encourages students to shop locally on Main Street.

“The convenience of Wal-mart and Target is that they have so much under their roof, but a lot of times it’s the same brands across the board,” Clyde said. “The [Main Street] district provides different options for those types of products.”

Main Street is also an entertainment district with numerous restaurants and bars.

“Main Street has a music hall, a pool hall and a brewery,” Clyde said. “There’s a lot of things students would be interested in.”

Downtown offers multiple places to stop and grab a meal, a sweet treat or a gift card for someone on your list.

Cupcake Emporium specializes in cupcakes but also serves cookies, soups and sandwiches.

Olde Main Brewery Co. and Restaurant offers a wide menu of food and beer.

“We’re filling a lot of gift cards for the holiday season,” said Anne Squires, event coordinator and marketing director of Olde Main. “We have a lot of new merchandise such as T-shirts, mugs, glasses and growlers. Gift cards make great gifts for Mom and Dad and in turn brings them back into town as well.”

Squires said that it’s important for students to shop locally. 

“Supporting your local Ames businesses is important,” she said. “It supports the town [students] go to school in. It’s nice to put their money back into the community that does so much for them as well.”

Gilger said, “We are an anomaly. Main Streets all over the country are dying. We have unique, family-owned businesses. We keep the money in Ames.”

Main Street is a hidden treasure waiting for students to discover, but it’s a mile from Central Campus, making walking there a drawback to students.

“People who don’t have a car then have to rely on the bus or a friend to bring them down to Main Street,” Youngberg said. “I would say that is the primary reason. I couldn’t imagine anything else that keeps people away from downtown Ames.”