Update: The Shop Iowa City is officially opening for business Sunday, Aug. 26. There will be a grand opening event 12-4 p.m. that day.
Kay Boyer, Kate Dreyer and Jessica Meyer have been hard at work peeling away layers from the downtown space that, until recently, housed University Camera for 48 years.
In the past week, they’ve yanked up the thin gray carpet, opened up space around the front windows, pulled down the soffit and ceiling tiles and worked to restore the original wood floors and patterned white tin ceiling. Next steps: erecting new walls — which will be painted white to create a crisp, airy gallery space — and giving the front of the building a facelift.
The renovations are an appropriate start for the Shop Iowa City, a new business opening at 4 S Dubuque St in mid-August. The Shop will sell vintage, restored and repurposed furniture and home decor, collected by the three seasoned pickers and designers.
“We hope it’ll just be everyone’s go-to place for trendy home decor,” Meyer said. “If you’re searching for those one-of-a-kind, unique pieces, we’ve got it.”
The women were initially approached by representatives of the Iowa City Downtown District to run a pop-up shop. The prospect was appealing, but they didn’t see much potential in the offered space.
“Your location at a market could easily have a $5,000 swing on what you make that weekend,” Dreyer said, drawing on her experience selling at outdoor markets around the Midwest. “We thought if we’re going to try it we should do it right. When we saw this building for rent, we couldn’t pass it up. Downtown Iowa City has an artistic vibe and a value for culture and art, and what it’s currently missing is a thoughtfully curated vintage and home decor store.”
Since 2014, Dreyer of Coralville and Boyer of Kalona have sold their pieces at the Shop in Kalona, a collaboration between the two women and Karen Brandt, a retired vintage enthusiast. The three combine their styles — Dreyer “sophisticated, glam, vintage” and Boyer “rustic, classic, Americana” — as well as their time to manage the business like a well-oiled machine.
The Shop Iowa City will run much the same way, but with the addition of Meyer (Brandt will stick to working the Kalona store only). Meyer is from Muscatine and sells goods through her independent business Good Folk Trading Co. — she specializes in “furniture art pieces” and items made from salvaged wood — but said she’s always dreamed of having a brick and mortar shop.
Joining forces not only makes for a decent construction crew, but helps the three women, all mothers, share shifts and employees.
“It requires so much time outside of the shop to actually make and produce or restore your vintage items that you rely on other people to actually run the shop while you’re not there,” Dreyer said. “It’s a rotation.”
Though they each have their own niche, the designers’ pieces will be mixed at the Shop, Meyer noted.
“We are three separate business operating as one,” she said. “We all have similar tastes and our stuff works well together.”
Dreyer said she can be found at estate sales and auctions any given week. She looks for items that represent “vintage meets modern with a pop of glam,” whether that’s perennial best-sellers — old buffets, dressers and unique accent chairs — or trendy things, such as wicker peacock chairs and woven neutral-colored items.
Decorative pieces such as vintage typewriters, telephones, kettles, globes and wedding decorations are also features of the Kalona shop, and will be sold in Iowa City as well. Dreyer said more traditional farmhouse decor will be concentrated at the Kalona shop, while Bohemian pieces will be a feature of the Shop Iowa City.
What will be missing is the fashion section; unlike its Kalona counterpart, the Shop Iowa City will not sell vintage clothing, at least right away.
“Expect inventory to change weekly,” she said. “What’s unique about being a vintage store is there’s only one item and the new store could have new look frequently.”
Though the Shop Iowa City will carry used items, they are not a consignment store. If someone is interested in selling pieces to the Shop owners, Dreyer requests they send a message through their Facebook page or email address email@example.com. Single items may pique the women’s interest, but a prospective picking site is even better.
“Because of the scale of how we run,” Dreyer said, “we’d be more interested in a whole home or a whole barn.”