Business

Makers Loft grows with local artists, craftspeople

'A lot of talented people in our community'

A small bar is seen at The Makers Loft in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018. The shop features art and crafts by local artisans, curated by Simeon Talley and Veronica Tessler. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A small bar is seen at The Makers Loft in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018. The shop features art and crafts by local artisans, curated by Simeon Talley and Veronica Tessler. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Simeon Talley isn’t a maker, but he wanted to make a permanent retail space for those who are.

Thus, the Makers Loft Iowa City was born.

Makers Loft is a curated, community-driven retail store in downtown Iowa City that sells handmade goods from Iowa artisans and craftspeople.

“There are a lot of talented people in our community,” Talley said. “Some are known, and some are not so known. But they’re all looking for opportunities to reach more people.”

A self-described producer, facilitator, organizer and curator, Talley came to know the local artist community through his involvement with various entrepreneurial efforts.

He is co-founder of Flyover Fest and Iowa Fashion Project, co-organizer of the new Middle of Nowhere music festival and founder of a line of political T-shirts, among other endeavors.

In 2017, Talley opened RADinc., a retail incubator, event venue and shared studio space, in downtown Iowa City. Makers Loft, which uses the RADinc. space, is the next iteration of that concept.

“RAD was an experiment,” Talley said. “Makers Loft is more focused and refined.”

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With business partner Veronica Tessler, owner of Iowa City’s Yotopia Frozen Yogurt, Talley started putting together the concept for Makers Loft this past spring. He reached out to local makers to sell their products in the store and renovated the former RADinc. space to create a clean, classic retail aesthetic.

Makers Loft opened in early September with fewer than a dozen vendors. Since then, it has grown to more than 30 different makers who sell their goods on a consignment basis initially with a view to becoming wholesalers.

The diverse array of handmade merchandise includes home decor and art, furniture, apparel and accessories, personal care products and food, among other items.

“They are all Iowa products and brands,” Talley said. “We are trying to build a shopping destination for Iowa-made and -produced goods and foods.”

One challenge for the new business, Talley said, is drawing in customers from the street to the second-floor location.

“I didn’t appreciate initially how much of a challenge it would be,” he said.

To overcome the lack of a street-level facade, Makers Loft has taken part in Iowa City Downtown District events such as the Gallery Walk and Fall Shop Crawl to attract new customers.

To draw even more people in, the business hosts community events and workshops in its space, including an upcoming wreath-making workshop on Nov. 29.

For the holiday season, Makers Loft will operate a pop-up shop at Coral Ridge Mall featuring Iowa-made products.

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“We wanted to maximize what we could sell this holiday season while promoting our permanent location to the hordes of shoppers at the mall,” Talley said.

“I’m an entrepreneur, not a maker or an artist,” he said. “It was a risk for them to put their trust in me, but they did, and for that I am deeply grateful.”

l Know a business in operation for a year or less that would make an interesting “Ground Floor”? Let us know at michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

At a Glance

l Owners: Simeon Talley and Veronica Tessler

l Business: Makers Loft Iowa City

l Address: 119½ E. Washington St., Iowa City

l Phone: (202) 657-9102

l Email: TheMakersLoftIowaCity@gmail.com

l Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheMakersLoftIowaCity

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