Business

Fair trade group to temporarily move into Whitey's space

Ten Thousand Villages to stay until year's end

A 1950s mural is shown on a wall inside the building formerly occupied by Whitey's in Iowa City on Monday, Sept. 21, 201
A 1950s mural is shown on a wall inside the building formerly occupied by Whitey’s in Iowa City on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — The downtown Iowa City space that once housed Whitey’s Ice Cream has found a new tenant, albeit a temporary one.

Cindi Schrock, president of the not-for-profit Ten Thousand Villages of Iowa City Inc.’s board of directors, said a temporary three-month lease was signed Wednesday to allow the organization to operate out of the 112 E. Washington St. space from about mid-October until the end of the year.

Schrock said this pop-up location — along with last fall’s at 136 S. Dubuque St. — should help Ten Thousand Villages raise the $110,000 fundraising goal to find a permanent home in Iowa City.

“This will be our second fundraiser, and after this we’re hoping we can open a permanent store and we’re looking at downtown Iowa City for that,” Schrock said. “We’re halfway there.”

Mark Ginsberg, owner of M.C. Ginsberg Jewelers and owner of the property, said he is in discussions with two potential tenants for the space after next year, with the hope of signing someone — preferably a retailer — to a five-year lease.

“My preference would be to bring something in that is completely unique to the market,” Ginsberg said, suggesting a kitchen or small furniture store or specialty retail store as a possible tenant. “To me, it’s important to have that kind of retail diversity in the marketplace ... . There are a lot of unique ideas that don’t currently exist in downtown Iowa City.”

Ginsberg said renovations to the space will include living and office space on the second and third floors.

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Ten Thousand Villages had a temporary location in the Iowa City Public Library building last fall. The not-for-profit, which focuses on fair trade international goods such as jewelry, scarves, kitchenware and home accents, also had operated out of the former home of the Wedge Downtown for six weeks.

Founded in 1946, Ten Thousand Villages was created by Edna Ruth Byler, who thought Puerto Rican women were not paid enough for their needlework. Byler began by selling items out of a trunk, educated customers about artisans around the world and became part of a fair trade movement, which seeks to help producers from developing countries obtain fair prices for their goods.

Franchise locations for the Akron, Penn.-based Ten Thousand Villages began opening in 1997, and the not-for-profit reported $19 million in revenue last year.

Schrock said the organization works with 158 artisans in 37 countries around the world and places a big emphasis on building and maintaining relationships with artisan groups.

Officials with Whitey’s Ice Cream announced earlier this year that the company would not be renewing its lease in the 115-year-old building.

Whitey’s officials, who could not be reached for comment Monday, had said at the time that they were exploring options of opening a new Iowa City store.

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