Revival shifts focus to online shopping while retail space undergoes renovation

Revival Clothing Store, 117 E College St, Iowa City. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

For 17 years Revival has been a place of escape and community. The Iowa City thrift and consignment boutique provides not only a unique array of vintage and used clothing, but also a selection of ethical, environmentally friendly new products and a top-rated, friendly staff. It is a store where you can browse, experiment with your style and feel good about your purchases, knowing your money was spent responsibly and stayed in the community.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has drastically changed the way we are able to shop. This obviously affects the bottom line of local businesses like Revival, but it also affects consumers.

Amazon has seen massive profits as online shopping has become the primary mode of purchasing. Many local businesses have found creative ways to combat that: posting items for sale in their Instagram stories, running special promotions to online shoppers. However, the whole experience of shopping at Revival, the browsing and trying-on and personal touch, has been dearly missed by staff and customers alike.

Perhaps, then, it was serendipitous that a massive renovation of the Revival retail space, which had been planned since long before the pandemic, has now begun, temporarily displacing the Revival staff and all its inventory.

Located above the Jimmy John’s in downtown Iowa City for the time being, Revival owner Sheila Davisson says the shop is committing even further to the online sales model. Davisson was kind enough to answer some questions from Little Village via email about the challenges and creative solutions Revival has come up with.

What do you consider to be Revival’s role in the community?

Revival strives to offer an inviting and inclusive space where people can shop for sustainable clothing that fits into their budget and reflects personal style. We offer sustainable fashion options through resale and vintage clothing, along with offering new products that are designed and produced in an ethical and sustainable way. In addition to shopping, we also strive to be a place where people can stop in to chat with our staff, spend some time with others while hopefully being inspired to express themselves through fashion.

In what ways has the pandemic impacted operations at Revival and that relationship with the community?

The in-person experience of shopping and the socialization that comes with shopping in a small boutique is missed the most. We are grateful to have an established an active community online but we so miss seeing our customers face-to-face (and the hugs, too).

Staff at Revival clothing store in Iowa City. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

What interesting or creative changes have you made to the Revival business model since the pandemic hit?

Revival has been operating online for most of the pandemic. Instead of returning to regular business hours we have started offering private shopping appointments and personal shopping services. This is something we have always wanted to try and seems like the perfect situation to try it. Also, we have started offering mystery boxes, you spend $50-100 and you get 4-5 surprise items – that has been a lot of fun and we are planning on expanding on it this holiday season.

What is the plan for the future of Revival for the duration of the pandemic and beyond?

Well, we are currently beginning a major renovation project, so we have moved to a temporary location (it’s on the 2nd floor above Raygun/Jimmy John’s) until the end of the year. The renovation was planned well before the pandemic, but honestly the timing of it all seems to have worked out well. The pandemic just brought the importance of us moving to more online earlier then we had planned. We do plan to move back into our new-and-improved original space on the Ped Mall next March. We will continue to operate online, but next spring we can (hopefully) get back to buying items from the public, offering in-person shopping, fitting rooms, a full staff — all the things that we are so missing now!

Are you currently buying clothes at the new location?

We are not accepting items at this time. I so wish we were able to, but we are operating at a much lower capacity (with reduced space and staff) and so we have had to limit how much we can buy at this time. It is one of those things that changes quickly and without a lot of notice. We encourage customers, though, to reach out and inquire — sometimes it may be a specific size, style or category that we may need. It really is based on how much we sell online; the more resale items people buy on our website the more we can buy and take on consignment.

Revival owner Sheila Davisson folds clothes at the longtime location in the Ped Mall in 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

I noticed Revival is encouraging people to get out and vote on social media, even offering a collection of voting themed pins and donating 20 percent of the proceeds to the Johnson County League of Women Voters. Do you have plans to offer more similar items as Election Day approaches? Why is it important to you to have Revival involved in getting out the vote?

We did just start talking about a small collection “Just Go Vote” — we will donate 20 percent of the proceeds from this collection to the Johnson County League of Women Voters. There probably won’t be many more additions to the collection (unless we sell out of these and need to find more!). As to why voting is important: Voting is not only our right, it is our duty; it is being threatened right now in our country and Revival does not support the direction in which our country is headed. We love selling clothes (especially kick-ass vintage ones), talking fashion and style — but the most important thing to everyone at Revival is to make positive change in this world. Voting brings change and that is why it is so very, very important to us.

How can people help and support Revival?

People can support Revival by shopping our online store. We have a much larger resale and vintage selection along with new items. You can always find sneak peaks and be the first to see our latest drops on Instagram. The other way to support Revival is to reach out to us and let us know what you want to see from us! We are always trying to be a step ahead of what you all want, but what we love more than anything is hearing from you and letting us know how we can improve! You can email us at, DM us via Instagram @revivaliowacity or find us on Facebook at Revival Clothing Store.

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