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Iowa City businesses do their part during the holidays

BY AUDREY DWYER | DECEMBER 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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With tables stocked with delicately laden treats and handmade gifts, a local pop-up store creates an atmosphere that embraces the spirit of the holiday season.

“Merci,” the French word for “thank-you,” is the title of the seasonal store, 30 S. Clinton St. The store flourishes in the season of giving. To say “thank-you” to local artists and charities, 10 percent of every sale goes to Habitat for Humanity, and 45 percent of each sale goes back to the contributing artist.

Merci is just one of a growing number of downtown Iowa City stores contributing to the community during the holiday season.

“When we work together, we can make a bigger impact on the community and make a difference,” said Revival consignment store owner Sheila Davisson.

Liza Showalter, a close friend of Davisson and coworker, said her favorite part about working at Merci is interacting with the artists.

“I love to hear about the different stories from each artist about their stuff and how they make it,” she said.

At Merci, customers are welcomed with vivid colors from a variety of locally made goods. There are Christmas ornaments, headbands, and hair bows made by Nan Cord (who also makes hair bows for Von Maur), Chun Cathy’s fingerless gloves, called “Fingaloos,” made from recycled sweaters, as well as T-shirt bracelets and ceramic earrings from A. Knutson and a few stay-at-home mothers with a knack for making jewelry. Customers with a sweet tooth can buy candies, trail mix, and cookies from Emily Maxwell’s Sweet & Kind vegan treats.

“Helping people find that perfect something for someone is the best part of my job,” Showalter said.
Down the street from Merci, shoppers can find another way to have their purchases benefit the community at Molly’s Cupcakes, 14 S. Clinton St.

Storeowner Jamie Smith said the mission of Molly’s Cupcakes is to give back to education. The history of the original Chicago-based Molly’s Cupcakes comes from John Nicolaides, who named the café in honor of an elementary teacher who baked cupcakes for students on their birthdays.

To give back, the bakery is donating all employee tips to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. In the past, the shop has given donations to a variety of local charities, including United Nations Children’s Fund, Make a Wish Foundation, March of Dimes, and the donation of cupcakes and gift certificates to Iowa City schools.

“It’s important to pay it forward, and everybody pitches in a little bit,” Smith said.
To get in the holiday spirit, Yotopia Frozen Yogurt, 132 S. Clinton St., will feature the new holiday flavor: candy-cane yogurt with some new winter toppings.

“Everyone is just in a cheery mood; it’s a great season of giving,” storeowner Veronica Tessler said.
Every week, the shop hosts community events, such as a coat drive at Longfellow Elementary, 1130 Seymour Ave., donations in support of IC Red Week, and last week’s donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County.

“We are a community business, and it is really important to support the community that supports us,” Tessler said. 

Local businesses involved in charities:

• Merci, 30 S. Clinton
• Molly’s Cupcakes, 14 S. Clinton
• Yotopia Frozen Yogurt, 132 S. Clinton
• Revival, 117 E. College


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