IOWA CITY — In the age of online shopping, a group of three hopes its new space will foster the next generation of small businesses and brick-and-mortar stores.
RADinc — short for retail arts design incubator — opened in downtown Iowa City last month. It’s a mix of retail storefront, event space and shared studio space.
“We want to do as many interesting, cool, creative things as possible with as many different types of people as possible in a way that is incredibly affordable and accessible,” said co-founder Simeon Talley.
Making the space cheap and centered downtown, he said, is key “because that’s where a lot of everything happens in Iowa City but a lot of times a lot of artists, a lot of makers, outside of the university are really priced out of it.”
So far, six retail tenants and 10 others work or sell out of RAD. The current location, 123 E. Washington St., is not permanent, but Talley said RAD has at least a year to try its concept.
Talley came to Iowa while working on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. He started RAD with Andre Wright and John Engelbrecht, two other Iowa Citians interested in the retail and arts communities.
Talley explained more about RAD and the three founders’ hopes for it.
Q: What type of tenants are you trying to attract?
A: We want people that are serious about what they’re doing and testing it out, seeing if it’s a viable product, business idea, artistic endeavor. People that want to turn the thing that they’ve been doing on the side or the thing that they’re really passionate about in to their livelihood or something that’s a little bit bigger part of their life and can benefit from space and connecting to other artists.
Q: Do you want tenants to outgrow the space?
A: Absolutely. That would be ideal.
Q: Why have all of these different interest areas in one place?
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A: I think everybody benefits from a community-driven approach and just learning about, connecting to people in similar situations, but you’ll always be surprised by the sort of collaborations that just sort of happen.
Q: What do you want RAD to become?
A: Incubators have popped up and gone away with very mixed success and reviews. If we can figure out how to do that correctly on the creative, artistic side, that would be great, but also just this idea of incubating the next generation of brick-and-mortars, of local artisans, of makers and providing an intentional, supportive ecosystem for people in Iowa, I think that would be a very powerful and compelling thing.
Q: What is an obstacle for RAD?
A: I think the scaling up and figuring out the right pricing for our tenants and the different services that we’re offering that still makes it affordable and accessible, but still allows us to afford the rent ourselves. This is a commercial enterprise, we’re an LLC. We’re treating this as a business.
Q: You started in politics. How did you wind up in this creative world?
A: A lot of it is just community organizing. One of my first jobs in politics was as a field organizer. … That approach of connecting dots, connecting people, identifying resources, being resourceful, collaborating with other like-minded people, finding areas where there should be more collaboration, that’s just a skill set and a way of approaching work, life, existing in a community that I learned from the Obama campaign.
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