Local Cedar Rapids and Iowa City stores offer unique finds for holiday shopping

Limited Edition NCSML Ornament designed by Czech-American Master Folk Artist Marj Nejdl from the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library Museum Store in Cedar Rapids. Shot on Monday, November 13, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Limited Edition NCSML Ornament designed by Czech-American Master Folk Artist Marj Nejdl from the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library Museum Store in Cedar Rapids. Shot on Monday, November 13, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

In between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, a new shopping day has arrived: Museum Store Sunday, on Nov. 26.

The national Museum Store Association is unveiling the marketing effort this year in the hopes of drawing holiday shopper’s attention and dollars to the gift shops inside museums.

Such stores not only help museum’s bottom lines but can offer unique gifts, said Lou Wendel, manager of the store at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

The art museum’s store, for example features not only fine art items from around the world but one-of-a-kind work from local artisans. They also carry items centered on renowned artists with Cedar Rapids ties like Marvin Cone and Grant Wood.

“It’s very important to raise awareness of the museum stores because they represent the museum’s collection. They have unique items that you oftentimes can’t find anywhere else,” Wendel said. “Every one has their own niche.”

Shopping at museum and nonprofit gift shops also funnels money back into the organization’s mission. Hancher’s Showcase store, for example, helps fund the performing arts venue’s educational activities for children. The Art Museum store also funds educational events.

Other shops simply help their organization’s operational budgets.

“We’re that layer of constant revenue to help keep the museum in a healthy financial place,” said Sarah Jane Wick, director of the museum store at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. “A lot of people give donations to specific programs, but I like to say we help keep the lights on.”


Both the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and Cedar Rapids Museum of Art stores are participating in Museum Store Sunday. The Art Museum will have ornament making from 1 to 3 p.m. as well as 20 percent off for museum members throughout the day. The first 12 people who sign up for new memberships will receive a Museum Store Sunday coffee mug. The Czech & Slovak Museum, meanwhile, is using Museum Store Sunday to promote their full holiday shopping season, including their Old World Christmas Market on Dec. 2 and 3. The gift shops at the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History and the Old Capitol Museum in Iowa City also will participate in Museum Store Sunday; both are open from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.

To help shoppers get started, here is The Gazette’s 2017 Gift Guide, featuring five area nonprofit and museum gift shops.

l Comments: (319) 398-8434;


The store: Nikee Museum Store at the African American Museum of Iowa

Location: 55 12th Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday

Contact: (319) 862-2101,

Details: “We are known for having a lot of books, particularly children’s books and local authors,” Museum executive director LaNisha Cassell said.

Many of the books they sell were featured in a recent exhibit on African-American literature, “Mightier Than the Sword.” In addition to books they carry gifts like candles, mugs, soapstone animals, musical instruments and wall art.

The gifts: Raygun T-shirts designed for the museum. Price: $25.

Books for children and adults. Price varies.

Jazz Figurine Ensemble. These metal figurines of a jazz ensemble can be bought together or individually. Price: $30 each.



The store: Cedar Rapids Museum of Art Museum Store

Location: 410 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

Hours: Noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; noon to 8 p.m. Thursday

Contact: (319) 366-7503,


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Details: With an emphasis on fine arts, from books and prints to jewelry, ceramics and items for kids, the store has a special focus on items related to Iowa artists like Grant Wood and Marvin Cone, as well as pieces related to current and past exhibits.

“We know what shows they’re bringing in and try to find items that support the shows,” store manager Lou Wendel said. “We have a lot of items from artists around the Midwest.”

The gifts: Flat holiday candles with two wicks. Every candle is unique, handmade and decorated in Lithuania. Candles do not drip or produce smoke. Burning time 3 to 4 hours. Includes a metal foldout stand. Price: $18.95

Fine art designed, aluminum credit card case with RFID protection. Holds approximately 12 cards. Price:$9.95



The store: Hancher Showcase

Location: 141 E. Park Road, Iowa City

Hours: Regular hours 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday and 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, as well as before and after performances. Holiday hours 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday through Dec. 21.

Contact: (319) 335-1073,

Details: Staffed and managed by Hancher Guild volunteers, the store features a range of unique items. “Typically we sell a lot of jewelry. I try to buy jewelry you can’t get anywhere else,” said buyer Jane Downer, who travels to markets to order things for the store. “We look for museum-type pieces you’d find in you went to a really nice gift shop in an art museum.”

Items that correspond with Hancher’s season are also popular, such as music and ballet-themed gifts.


The gifts: Acacia Creations festive fair trade animal ornaments, carved from sustainably harvested jacaranda wood and hand-painted in Kenya. Price: $14 to $15.

Coeur de Lion jewelry made with Swarovski crystals. Price: bracelet $84, necklace $180. Other jewelry in the store starts at $15.



The store: Creekside Shop at Indian Creek Nature Center

Location: 5300 Otis Road SE, Cedar Rapids

Hours: Winter hours 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday

Contact: (319) 362-0664,

Details: Office manager Dana Wood says she tries to select items that reflect the Nature Center’s mission. That means plenty of eco-friendly gifts, many made with recycled materials. They also feature local vendors, like journals with covers made from recycled leather, jewelry, soap and lotion.

The gifts: Local, raw honey and real maple syrup, both produced for the Indian Creek Nature Center from Eastern Iowa trees and beehives. For the honey, sizes available range from 8 ounces to 5 pounds. Price: $4.50 to $32. For the maple syrup, sizes available range from a half pint to a gallon. Price: $7.50 to $85.

Mini finger puppets, including goldfinches, eagles, chipmunks and frogs, represent some of the wildlife that could be spotted along the Nature Center’s trails. Price: $9 each.



The store: The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library Museum Store

Location: 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids


Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday; open until 7 p.m. Dec. 6, 13 and 20.

Contact: (319) 362-8500,

Details: The shop carries everything from books and art prints to jewelry, ornaments and more, with pieces curated to reflect Czech and Slovak history and culture.

“We definitely find products that speak directly to the exhibits on display at that particular time. And we definitely focus a lot on Czech and Slovak items, which are imported. We also find local artists that do Czech and Slovak-influenced art,” said museum store director Sarah Jane Wick.

The gifts: Heart Charm Collection pieces. Designer Katherine Kornblau of KJK Jewelry created these custom designed jewelry pieces, the second year she’s designed charms specifically for the museum shop. They are inspired by a traditional Czech heart symbol, also known as a ram’s head and often found on folk art and textiles. Jewelry available includes earrings, bracelets and necklaces. Price: $19.95 to $86.92.

Limited edition ornament designed by Master Folk Artist Marj Nejdl, of Cedar Rapids. She designs a new ornament for the museum every year, making these a collector’s item. Price: $38.95.

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