Iowa City businesses push for local holiday shopping


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Downtown Iowa City business owners have created incentives for holiday shoppers to keep their purchases local this season.

And these businesses are making attempts to attract customers through post-Thanksgiving sales, such as exclusive deals offered on Small Business Saturdays.


Abby Restko, the owner of Glassando, 201 S. Clinton St., has offered discounts at her store during the event the past two years and launches most of her merchandise deals over the holiday shopping season.

"I think with all the emphasis on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, people kind of forget about the smaller retailers," Restko said.

Restko, who used Facebook to advertise Small Business Saturday, says reminding customers of the importance of local businesses is something sale and discount strategies focus on.

Small Business Saturday began in 2010 and is a partnership between American Express and Facebook to recognize local stores across the nation.

Restko, along with seventeen other downtown businesses, sponsored a showing of The Muppet Movie at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., on Nov. 26 to demonstrate how small businesses give back to the community.

"When you shop local, the sales tax dollars go back into your community," Restko said.

Occupy Iowa City members at College Green Park support efforts to buy local.

Occupier Christopher Stark, 45, said supporting local businesses should be emphasized year-round, not just during the holiday shopping season.

"To only think about the holidays, you're only doing death to the small businesses," Stark said.

Stark said while supporting local business is not the main goal of the movement, making sure smaller industries are not overshadowed by larger corporations is something many protesters feel is important.

"Be American, buy from Americans," Stark said.

And local businesses are finding new ways to keep shoppers local, including a recent collaboration among several downtown shops.

Bill Nusser, the owner of Hands Jewelers, 109 E. Washington St., joined with Catherine's, 7 S. Dubuque St., and Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St., to create the temporary holiday pop-up store December, 30 S. Clinton St., which has helped draw people downtown, he said. He said the store was created to showcase and sell the work of 40 to 50 different local artists.

"We're charged with trying to find something new to offer our customers," Nusser said. "We're so lucky to have this downtown, because it's a great place and people love to come here, but they need to be given reasons to come."

Stark said local businesses are often offer more unique goods than chain stores or large department stores.

The variety of downtown Iowa City shops were a factor for resident Nancy Spalj, who is doing much of her holiday shopping locally.

"There's some different kinds of smaller shops that are unique," Spajl said. "I like shopping local and I also like the quality of [local] merchandise."

Spajl said she feels people should shop local as much as they possibly can.

"Give the business to the people who are local and own the businesses," Spajl said. "Definitely look at your smaller businesses first."

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