Downtown scavenger hunt brings new customers to Iowa City businesses

The search for stuffed sloths around Iowa City is creating a deeper connection between customers and business owners.

A+poster+promoting+a+downtown+Iowa+City+scavenger+hunt+is+taped+inside+the+window+of+clothing+store+White+Rabbit+on+South+Linn+Street+on+Monday%2C+July+11%2C+2022.+Starting+July+1%2C+the+Iowa+City+Downtown+District+and+Museum+of+Natural+History+started+the+%E2%80%9CWhere%E2%80%99s+Rusty%3F%E2%80%9D+summer+scavenger+hunt+for+Iowa+City+families%2C+which+has+hidden+sloths+in+29+different+Iowa+City+businesses.

Grace Smith

A poster promoting a downtown Iowa City scavenger hunt is taped inside the window of clothing store White Rabbit on South Linn Street on Monday, July 11, 2022. Starting July 1, the Iowa City Downtown District and Museum of Natural History started the “Where’s Rusty?” summer scavenger hunt for Iowa City families, which has hidden sloths in 29 different Iowa City businesses.

Grace Smith, Managing Editor


A summer scavenger hunt to find stuffed sloths in Iowa City’s downtown district is helping to bring additional exposure to local businesses.

Starting July 1, the Iowa City Downtown District and Museum of Natural History began the “Where’s Rusty?” summer scavenger hunt for Iowa City families, which has hidden sloths in 29 different Iowa City businesses.


“Where’s Rusty?” is similar to “Downtown Hunt for Elves,” a Downtown District-sponsored scavenger hunt in the winter where the community can search for elves in different shops and restaurants.

A manager at Iowa City clothing store White Rabbit, Anna Kain, said more families are coming in to experience and discover the store that is mainly meant for college-aged students.

“I think it’s a good opportunity because it’s hard for businesses to really show their vibe, unless it’s to a loyal customer base,” Kain said. “So, it’s nice to bring in families.”

Beno’s Flowers and Gifts owner Benito Ocampo said the hunt brings in new customers to the shop during the slower summer months when students are not in town.

Ocampo also said the scavenger hunt gives children and families a fun activity to participate in around Iowa City over the summer.

“We’re pretty excited…now with the kids being out of school,” Ocampo said. “It’s something kind of fun, you know, that families can do.”

Ocampo said although some families might not make purchases the day they come in to search for Rusty, the hunt still gives exposure to businesses.

A stuffed sloth sits inside Beno’s Flowers and Gifts in Iowa City on Monday, July 11, 2022. The scavenger hunt ends Aug. 19. (Grace Smith)

“I feel like people see what we have and then a lot of times they will come back to buy something,” Ocampo said. “…They will be like, ‘Oh, you guys deliver flowers?’ ‘Yeah, we deliver flowers,’ and then next time they might order flowers from here.”

Once a family finds Rusty in one of the stores, a store employee stamps their scavenger card. The family then takes their card to the Iowa City Public Library, Iowa Book, or the museum for a small prize, and enters their name for larger prize basket at the end of the hunt.

Sales associate at White Rabbit, Chloe Becker, said she has signed at least 10 cards since the start of the hunt on July 1, and is looking forward to more families coming in.

Mother and daughter Stephanie and Zoe Graf, who plan on participating in the hunt, are looking forward to businesses and community members connecting with each other during the hunt.

“We’ll probably end up in stores and businesses that we don’t always go to,” Stephanie said, “So we’re exposed to lots of different places.”

Rusty heads back to the Ice Age and out of businesses on Aug. 19.

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