Holiday shops pop up in Pedestrian Mall

The Holiday pop-up shops in downtown Iowa City are back, and bigger than ever with both local and visiting vendors coming to sell holiday wares.


Raquele Decker

A holiday pop-up shop is seen in the Ped Mall on Thursday, November 14, 2019. The holiday pop-up shops will be going on through December 24. (Raquele Decker/The Daily Iowan)

Naomi Hofferber, Arts Reporter

Back after a year of construction, the Iowa City Downtown District Holiday Pop-Up Market has officially begun, with local and visiting shops occupying pods on the Pedestrian Mall from Nov. 8 until Dec. 24.

The Pop-Up Market, in its second year in existence, is offering more vendors this year, nearly doubling the weeks that the market is offered. Betsy Potter, the director of operations for the Iowa City Downtown District said the vendors are a combination of local businesses and vendors who could potentially be looking to move into the area. 

“There’s people who are constantly looking for retail space downtown,” she said. “If there’s an opportunity for them to do a small pop-up while they’re looking for retail space, that’s also how we’re accessing our vendors.”

Along with providing a space for vendors to offer special holiday items they may not have in store, the pop-up can help familiarize locals to the businesses already available to them.

Related: Holiday Art Market to replace annual Thieves Market 

“It’s an easy place for our businesses to kind of introduce people to their stores and say, ‘Hey, we’re only a block away or we might only be  three blocks away, but if you haven’t visited us we have a ton more in stock,’” Potter said. “It’s all over the board on what people are featuring, but there’s something that appeals to everybody, I suppose.”

Everything from street wear to bakery items and cleaning items will be available throughout the seven-week period. 

Revival, a clothing store located in downtown Iowa City, will be participating in the Pop-Up Market starting Dec. 9  for the second time. Sheila Davisson, the owner of Revival, said they will be offering different products in a pop-up that can’t be found in store. 

“It allows us to offer very … curated gift options to people,” she said. “We’ll definitely have some different things in the pop-up that we don’t have in store. And we focus more on gift giving versus clothing that you’re going to buy for yourself, so it’s a lot more accessories, home décor gifts, things like that.”

Wende Fugate, owner of Rare Bird Soap Shop, will be bringing her soaps and scents to the market starting next week. While her shop is currently located in The NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, she said she’s garnered a large following in Iowa City.

“I thought it was a good opportunity to test the market, and give customers a local (option), so they don’t have to drive up to NewBo to get my products,” she said. 

Along with her classic line of soaps, Fugate said she’ll be bringing some holiday scents as well, including frankincense and myrrh. Fugate said she is interested in having a shop in Iowa City in the near future.

“I do the Iowa City Farmers Market, and I sell at New Pioneer Coop, and I had sold at Lucky’s until it closed…” she said, “I think my products sell really well, there’s a huge support for local goods in Iowa City, and there [are] good vibes.”

On days when shops aren’t doing business in the pods, the district strives to keep the pods active, Potter said. Out of this, the Holiday Escape Room was born, which will kick off this weekend.

“We have created a holiday escape room,” Potter said. “We were trying to come up with other ideas on ways to activate that would be a unique offering for downtown. We don’t have anything like that, and there’s enough people that might have an hour to spare for the next week that might find it really, really fun.”

Participants will have an hour to find Santa’s list, hat, and key to the warehouse, solving puzzles to unlock the items. It costs $10 to participate, $5 for those 11 and under.