116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Downtown Iowa City is getting a jump start on its usual holiday shopping season with a new market just for kids.
The Holiday Kids Market, a new initiative started by the Iowa City Downtown District, started almost two weeks in advance of this week’s Small Business Saturday, recognized by the downtown district as the usual start of the holiday shopping season.
“The holiday shopping season is incredibly important to our retailers,” said Betsy Johnson, director of creative services for the district. “It’s a significant amount of their year for most retail.”
With a new pop-up market in the Black Hawk Mini Park on the Pedestrian Mall, children are part of the shopping, too, with a new sense of independence as they shop for gifts for parents, siblings, relatives and friends.
There, kids can walk in with a list and, with the guidance of Santa’s helpers, leave with wrapped gifts from a curated selection of gifts from over 20 small downtown retailers priced from $5 to $50. Parents can submit a list of gifts that need to be purchased and sets budgets for each person while waiting in a separate area while the kids shop.
With 30 to 45 minutes to shop, each child has a helper to make sure he or she sticks to the budget and complete the list. Appointments are available online to shop at a specific time, with drop-ins permitted as time allows.
Where: Black Hawk Mini Park in the Pedestrian Mall, 104 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City.
When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Wednesday.
How: Book a shopping appointment online at DowntownIowaCityHolidayMarket.com.
“When I was a child, the local chamber hosted a kids secret Santa event,” said Potter. “It’s the fondest holiday memory I have as a kid. I remember there was a lot of excitement about it because the parents didn’t know what you got for them, and that’s what’s exciting about giving gifts.”
In business as well as in gift giving, that excitement can play an important role in initiating the lasting relationships that keep families shopping locally with experiences they can’t get at big box stores, the district says.
“We want people to build memories downtown. That’s the concept behind everything we do for the holidays,” Potter said. “We want you to think about downtown during the holiday season and spend time down there. There’s that essence about experiences and building memories.“
The new kids market, in partnership with GreenState Credit Union, will give children in need a chance to shop, too. By working with Shelter House, Potter said, families have been identified to have an experience that might otherwise have been out of reach.
After the kids market, the Downtown Holiday Pop-Up Market runs from Small Business Saturday this coming weekend to Dec. 23.
After downtown retailers pivoted over the first year of the pandemic to accommodate more e-commerce, in-person shopping habits are slowly rebuilding in part through events like these.
“All these retailers have not stepped away from the websites they kept active in 2020 when they made quick changes,” Potter said. “There’s still demand for that. It’s not necessarily one or the other. We do all of it.”
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