One couple’s odyssey led to opening new Iowa City vintage store

Ulysses Modern owners Ryan Clara Quinn said the store has had a successful start with selling mid-century modern furnishings and apparel since opening on Oct. 2.

The+front+of+Ulysses+Modern%2C+a+thrift+store+on+Gilbert+Street%2C+is+seen+on+Monday%2C+Oct.+26%2C+2020.+

Jake

The front of Ulysses Modern, a thrift store on Gilbert Street, is seen on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020.

Claire Benson, News Reporter


When husband and wife Ryan and Clara Quinn began preparations to open their mid-century modern furnishings and apparel store, Ulysses Modern, on South Gilbert Street in Iowa City, they knew the store warranted a name that reflected the adventures taken to find their goods.

Clara Quinn said that the name of the store, particularly the name Ulysses, has a significant meaning to the couple, as they had a son named Ulysses who passed away due to premature birth complications several years ago. 

“Six years ago, Ryan and I had a child and I had a very grave illness in the middle of my pregnancy, and we gave birth to our son extremely prematurely, and he passed away, and his name was Ulysses,” Clara Quinn said. “The reason why we had picked that name for our son was because we really love adventure and exploration and finding the fun, cool things in life, and wanted him to have that sense of adventure.”

Clara Quinn said by naming the business after their son, they hope to encompass the same sense of adventure and creativity into the store.

“We felt like this is kind of our baby and we want all the same things out of this and so that was where it came from,” she said. “Naming the business Ulysses was a way to make it not just a sad or horrible thing that happened to us but now it can also be joyful and a gift.”

Ryan Quinn said he has collected mid-century modern design pieces for 15 years now, traveling to surrounding Midwest states and looking for unique pieces to find a new home for. He travels to estate sales, antique stores, thrift stores, malls, house calls, and other unique locations to scout eclectic vintage pieces that add to their store.

He said his job doesn’t feel like traditional work — it’s something he loves doing.

“I definitely have a passion for mid-century modern and Greek design in general,” Ryan Quinn said. “I love the business and treasure hunting and finding the right homes for things and finding the right people that want the stuff that I find.”

“We felt like this is kind of our baby and we want all the same things out of this and so that was where it came from,” she said. “Naming the business Ulysses was a way to make it not just a sad or horrible thing that happened to us but now it can also be joyful and a gift.”

Ryan Quinn previously worked at Mad Modern, a similar mid-century modern store in Cedar Rapids, where the couple currently lives. COVID-19 caused Mad Modern to temporarily close its doors over the summer and consider the decision to move to a new location.

RELATED: UI alumni release compilation album to raise money for Cedar Rapids after derecho

Clara Quinn said she and Ryan discovered at the end of July that the pair would need to move out of Mad Modern by Sept. 1, forcing them to make the decision about whether they should open their own store quickly.

Ryan Quinn said they signed the lease for the building Ulysses Modern is located in on Aug. 1, and shortly after, the derecho swept through Iowa on Aug. 10. He said the derecho forced the couple to temporarily stop their plans to remodel the building.

“We had our entire yard to clean up and multiple family and friends that needed help,” he said. “I worked 14 days straight or something cleaning trees up afterwards.”

Owner of Mad Modern Dave Owens said he is currently in the process of making specific plans for the store, deciding whether he would like to move it to a new location or an online format. Owens said he believes not having concrete plans for the business prompted Ryan Quinn to pursue opening his own store.

“I’m super happy for him,” Owens said. “Ryan has all the abilities, he’s existed as a wholesaler to me for a long time, and part of the reason I offered him a space in the store is because I thought he deserved some of that spotlight and a chance to showcase his own style. He has all the talent necessary and personality to have his own store.”

Ryan Quinn said the store has been rather successful so far, and it hasn’t experienced any “zero days” where not a single customer comes to the store or any goods are sold.

Facebook Comments