My Biz: Business blossoming at Cedar Rapids boutique

Laurel offers gifts, home décor, vintage-inspired items

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Catherine Roach grew up helping her mom and dad around the gift shop they owned — Gaslight Alley on Mount Vernon Road SE.

When she opened her boutique, Laurel, it was like she was carrying on a family tradition.

“This is really a family affair,” she said, noting that her sister also owned a gift shop for more than 20 years and that her daughter, Shannon, designed the store’s logo.

Roach’s granddaughters pop into the store to work as greeters every once in a while. Roach enjoys creating the memories for her grandchildren that she had helping in her parents’ store.

Beyond that, Roach said she considers her employees and customers to be like family.

“We have three part-time workers whom we really love, plus our manager, Sarah Lochner,” she said. “Everyone works so well together and our customers have really become our friends.”

Laurel offers a variety of gifts, home décor and vintage-inspired items — everything from kitchen textiles and jewelry to vases and lighting.

“We have a lot of customers who come in and look around and then seem to circle the store to look around again,” Roach said. “They feel like they haven’t seen it all without doing a second lap. We really try to appeal to a lot of styles.”

Roach said staff work hard to carry items at Laurel that you might not find in other local shops.

“We are always trying to find merchandise that is unique,” she said. “We are about giving personal service to each shopper. If we know one of our customers is looking for something in particular for their home, we try to keep an eye out for something like it when we go to market.”

As Laurel’s owner, Roach handles a variety of tasks from paperwork to working behind the register and taking out the garbage. But her true passion is creating the merchandise displays around the store, which she changes regularly.

While the store has doubled in size since it opened in 2012, Roach still works to get the word out about her shop.

“We have new customers coming in every day,” she said. “They live nearby and say that they didn’t know we were here.

“One of the greatest challenges is how shopping habits have changed since my parents were in business,” noting that they closed their store in 1994. “Online shopping and big box stores have changed the complexion of shopping.”

Laurel hosts three open houses annually in the spring, fall — which is coming up the week after Labor Day — and at Christmastime.

“We get new merchandise on a daily basis, which is such fun,” Roach said. “But during those open houses, we really emphasize what is new in the shop and we like for our customers to come in and help us usher in the new season.”


Owner: Catherine Roach

Company: Laurel

Address: 7037 C Ave. NE, Suite 300

Phone: (319) 826-1855


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