You Have a Choice with Your Money: Shop Local Iowa City Businesses

A few weeks ago I was reading an article in the Little Hawk, City High’s School newspaper, and there was a quote from a local business owner that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about.

“You have a choice with your money. If you enjoy downtown, if you enjoy coming down there, then you need to vote with your dollars now, not just for me, but really think about where you choose to spend your money. You can buy anything you want from Amazon, but then the places that you do like to go to, eventually will be gone.”

– Michelle Galvin, owner of the Velvet Coat in downtown Iowa City quoted in the Little Hawk on October 23, 2020

Shop Local Iowa City BusinessesAs the holiday season approaches, I will be spending a little more money than usual —a gift for my kids’ teachers, a trinket for my next door neighbor, something fabulous for my mom friends—you get the idea. And I’d like to be a little more intentional about where I’m spending my money over these next few months.

As I’ve shifted my purchasing habits from Amazon and Target to smaller Iowa City businesses, there are a few purchasing and mindset adjustments I’ve had to make.

Some of these tips might be helpful for you too as you shop small in Iowa City:

Don’t expect free shipping

But don’t let the absence of free shipping keep you from purchasing. If you are buying locally, in many cases you can contact the shop about free in-store or curbside pick-up. If you’re not buying local, factor in the added cost of shipping when shopping the website.

Plan ahead

Amazon has conditioned me that all things should be delivered next day (and for free—see tip no. 1), but in many cases small businesses are waiting to make your order until after you’ve ordered it. It’s kind of like the difference between a fast-food meal and a meal at a sit down restaurant. In other words, good things come to those who wait.

Don’t be afraid to ask for something custom

When you order from a small business you are most likely talking to the creator of the item (or a close friend or family member of the creator), which means they know their product and their stock. This knowledge and personal investment in the product means the shop owner is much more likely to be willing to work with you to find or create that “just right” item you’re looking for.

Tell your friends

When you find something you love or when you’ve had a great experience—tell your friends! So many small businesses depend on word of mouth as part of their marketing campaigns.

Use Instagram

Many local businesses advertise and have pop-up sales on Instagram—find the places you’d like to support and start following them on Instagram.

You can find several local holiday shopping opportunities – including in-person and virtual events, in ICM’s 2020 Holiday Guide.

Happy [local] shopping, friends!

Kate is the mom to Jack (2006), Liz (2007), and Alice (2011) and an avid Cubs fan through marriage. She's an assistant professor of mathematics and STEM education at St. Ambrose University and also moonlights as a mathematics teacher at South East Junior High in Iowa City. Between soccer, running club, tumbling, and piano lessons she likes to cook, run, and do yoga. She's also a sucker for 5Ks with cool swag and awesome medals.


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