Iowa City’s Holiday Retail Open House wraps parties and Christmas shopping into one

The Holiday Retail Open House invites shoppers to attend individual holiday parties around retail stores in Iowa City to enjoy snacks, drinks, and other small gifts.


Lillie Hawker

Revival is seen in downtown Iowa City on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.

Olivia Augustine, Arts Reporter

The Holiday season is huge in the world of retail – and the small businesses of Iowa City are ready and waiting. Downtown Iowa City offers several holiday experiences, from a room of hundreds of teddy bears to an ongoing hunt for elves around the city. Among these festivities is the Holiday Retail Open House, with nearly 20 participating stores.

The Holiday Retail Open House will take place on Dec. 4 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and invites the public to attend small holiday parties at local businesses throughout Downtown Iowa City. Each store will provide snacks, drinks, or a small gift that may come in the form of a tangible item or a discount with a purchase.

Betsy Potter, the director of creative services for Downtown Iowa City, said that the Holiday Retail Open House has existed for over 20 years, and is a collective open house that makes the holiday season more collaborative.

A new business on Dubuque Street, 223 Baby Co, is spending the holiday season taking full advantage of all the seasonal fun Downtown Iowa City has to offer.

“Anything that they offer we’ve always had really good results and it’s only been a month,” said owner Macy Krall. “Anything they create and offer for us I probably will always do.”

223 Baby Co opened in October of this year as an extension of 223 Vintage Co in West Branch. Krall said she noticed that several Iowa City residents were making the trek out to West Branch specifically for the baby section of the vintage store. She saw a need for a baby store in Downtown Iowa City, and the second location was born.

Krall said 223 Baby Co is about 75 percent baby merchandise, but the store also offers other products, such as gifts for mom and dad and small decorative items for college students, like little Christmas trees.

For the Holiday Retail Open House, 223 Baby Co will offer “Baby Dollars,” which comes in the form of gifts cards. A photographer will also be doing mini sessions on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

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Krall said that November and December are important for small businesses because it gives them a chance to throw all their holiday merchandise out there and also push possible gift ideas that are unique to their own store.

Sheila Davisson, owner of clothing boutique Revival, agrees that the Holidays are a great time to shop downtown, mostly because of her customer-retailer relationship. For the open house, Revival will offer shoppers refreshments, as well as a variety of gifts upon purchase — notably, Moon Balm, a lip balm made in Cedar Rapids.

“A lot of us store owners and employees, we have all formed relationships with our customers,” Davisson said. “So, it’s a time we get to see each other, and we get to come together and celebrate a little bit.”

Revival opened in 2003, and it has participated in the Holiday Retail Open House for several years.

The retail store sells vintage, new, and gently-used clothing, as well as other accessories and apothecary. They have built a brand that encourages female empowerment and supports ethical production of clothing.

“What I hope to achieve is just to see friendly faces, see a lot of our customers,” Davisson said. “I get to see them in person after a long while of not, you know, so I think that’s what’s most exciting about this holiday season.”

Other stores in Iowa City participating include Catherine’s, Beno’s Flowers and Gifts, and Ewers men’s store. More participating businesses can be found here.