Cedar Falls retailer opening new downtown Iowa City location this week

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | MAY 13, 2013 5:00 AM

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A Cedar Falls retailer carrying a handful of up-and-coming American-made designer lines is hoping to make its mark locally, with the opening of a new two-level downtown women’s boutique.

Owner Stevie L.H. Toomey is set to open nori this week at 105 E. College St. in the former Velvet Coat space in the Savings & Loan Building, less than two months after opening a first location in Cedar Falls’ College Square Mall.

Once open, nori will become the 19th retailer downtown that offers women’s selections.

Co-owner of InBox, 114 S. Clinton St., Toomey said the new venture will sell sustainable brands previously unknown to Iowa City, including Tru Blooms Chicago, Free People Special Occasion, and Amadi, while delivering unparalleled customer service to young women.

“We’re focusing on nationally made apparel and accessories while also pioneering a path for new and upcoming designers,” she said. “We try to bring the most trends-worthy styles to the cities we’re in.”

Named in honor of her daughter Eleanor, Toomey said she has a deep passion for introducing new brands to customers that are unavailable online or at department stores. When looking into opening an additional Iowa City business, she said noticed a true lack of local, American-made brands and representation for her age demographic.

“When I opened InBox, I was a single 25-year-old lady,” she said. “Now, I’m a married 29-year-old. My style and concept have evolved. I want something a little more sophisticated that my friends can shop at.”

She described nori as more than just a clothing store, ranging in price from $80 to $300.

Toomey said the quick decision-making in opening the Iowa City location came out after creating strong business relations with building owner and developer Marc Moen, coupled with ideal timing and the opportunity to land a downtown address.

“I took the space because I love the energy that the downtown has,” she said. “InBox is doing awesome, and [Iowa City] is a dream market… I have customers that have grown in the four years I’ve had InBox, and I want to be able to keep those same customers and keep the same style with different merchandise.”

Moen said the introduction of nori and the limited availability of property further demonstrates the demand, interest, and excitement occurring downtown. He noted that talks with downtown merchants have told him that the introduction of a national retailer will help drive more shopper traffic.

“I think the addition of another retailer demonstrates the strength of the downtown market, especially for high-quality locally owned and operated stores,” he wrote in an email. “… I also believe the consensus is that a predominance of locally owned stores is very important to the unique charm and appeal of downtown.”

Over the past few months, a number of businesses have expanded or are set to expand their downtown footprint, including Running Wild, 121 E. Washington St., Velvet Coat, 118 E. College St., and Buzz Salon, 115 S. Dubuque St.

Sandra Navalesi, the owner of women’s clothing boutique Dulcinea, 2 S. Dubuque St., said the women’s clothing market has become “flooded” with options but declined to comment further on how the addition of a high-end clothing boutique would affect her business’s bottom line.

UI freshman Maggie Martin said after visiting such stores as White Rabbit, Ragstock, and Cheap & Chic, nori could prove to be worth a look.

“The higher-end stores usually have a great selection of jewelry that is in my price range,” she said.
Martin said downtown has a good “mix” of retailers, although she said affordable women’s clothing appears to still be lacking.

“I definitely think if they had a Forever 21 or H&M downtown, they would do really well,” she said. “College students don’t have a lot of money to spend while they’re here, so having an affordable store would be beneficial.”

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