'New experiment' drives Raygun expansion in Cedar Rapids

Furniture, community events aim to make business 'more than a clothing store'

Thomas Somphanthabansouk is the manager at Raygun in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Managers of the popular sho
Thomas Somphanthabansouk is the manager at Raygun in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Managers of the popular shop have expanded its second floor space, which they plan to use as a lounge and gallery for artwork. The new edition also will feature a meeting room for artists and community members. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Raygun is expanding its Cedar Rapids store less than 18 months after opening.

The retailer that’s made a name for itself well beyond Iowa’s borders for satirical T-shirts poking fun at Iowa, politics and other topics, opened its fourth location — the Cedar Rapids store — in April 2016. Business has been good, but the impetus for expansion is to test out a new idea, said owner Mike Draper.

“This is part of a new experiment,” Draper said. “It’s about 1,000 square feet more than we needed, but it forces us into taking on a new idea.”

Raygun is located at 1028 Third St. SE and occupies the main level and second floor of the south half of the building. The expansion will include taking over the entire second floor, which includes above the Pig and Porter restaurant.

The expansion will allow the Cedar Rapids Raygun to expand inventory that is in the Des Moines store but hasn’t been introduced in Cedar Rapids, Draper said. The larger part of the expansion — the experiment part — will include a new product line — furniture — and a new service all together — community events, Draper said.

Staff have long built furniture used for displays, such as end tables, but will expand to larger furniture, including dining room tables, stools and chairs, Draper said.

“Anything you’d make from steel and wood we will sell to you,” Draper said.

The community event space will be tailored to other creative outlets, such as art exhibits, poetry readings or meetings for creative-minded people. The space will be free to use, Draper said.


“The main thing we are interested in is how you connect with the community more and have space that can be more than a clothing store,” Draper said.

Draper said the first use already is booked. Jonah Lorsung, of Cedar Rapids, will have photography and videography on display Oct. 20-21.

The expansion work will mostly occur in the beginning of October. It will add about 2,500 square feet to the 4,450-square-foot existing space.

It will have the largest retail footprint of all four Raygun stores, which also include the original store in Des Moines, Kansas City and Iowa City. Draper noted Cedar Rapids is the second best performing store behind Des Moines.

Craig Byers, of Pivot Real Estate, was involved in developing the building. He credited Draper and Raygun with being the first new retail store in the emerging New Bohemia District and the catalyst for the emergence of the East Village in Des Moines.

“You were the first retailer here, a catalyst of helping NewBo grow,” said Byers, who posted an interview with the colorful Draper on the Pivot Real Estate Facebook page,

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