NEWS

Ground Floor: Craft vendors find new home in New Bohemia

'Having a place in Cedar Rapids was key'

Stephen Mally photos/The Gazette

Joan Gray (from left), Jennifer Morris and Kellie Sauser, co-owners of Newbo Shops At 208 in Cedar Rapids, stand Thursday in the shop.
Stephen Mally photos/The Gazette Joan Gray (from left), Jennifer Morris and Kellie Sauser, co-owners of Newbo Shops At 208 in Cedar Rapids, stand Thursday in the shop.
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NewBo City Market’s announcement last November that it was eliminating its temporary vendor space to make room for more permanent stalls came as a surprise to the small business owners who regularly set up shop there on the weekends.

“We used NewBo Market as home base,” said Kellie Sauser, owner of Kathleen Rose Designs, which creates and sells handmade accessories and apparel. “That’s where our clients knew they could find us.”

Faced with the prospect of having to travel to craft shows on the weekends to sell her merchandise — particularly during months when there are no outdoor farmers markets in the area — Sauser began to seek other options. She considered becoming a permanent vendor at NewBo City Market but concluded that having a stall at the market would not give her the flexibility she wanted.

In February, Sauser learned that a storefront on Twelfth Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids’ NewBo neighborhood was available for lease. The next day, she recruited Jennifer Morris to go see the space with her.

Morris, owner of Two Jennifers, a handcrafted jewelry business, was another regular vendor at NewBo City Market and was looking for alternatives in the wake of the market’s announcement.

“I was cranking out applications to different craft shows,” Morris said. “The question was, do I spend the time and money traveling or do I put it into a store?”

Sauser and Morris determined the space was perfect for them, but they needed a third partner to make it work. They approached Joan Gray.

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Gray and her husband are the owners of D&J Creations, a business that creates lighted home decor out of old wine and liquor bottles. The Central City residents sold their wares at NewBo City Market nearly every weekend.

“It was the perfect audience for us there,” Gray said. “Having a place in Cedar Rapids was key.”

Sauser and Morris convinced Gray to join their venture, and NewBo Shops at 208 was born.

The shop, which opened for business on St. Patrick’s Day, offers a variety of items made by 16 different local artisans. In addition to the three partners’ own goods, the store’s merchandise includes textiles, candles, leather goods, furniture and home decor, and children’s clothing.

The store has a waiting list for vendors seeking to rent display space. The partners plan to add more vendors as soon as they get a new cash register. Sauser said they have one on order that will accommodate up to 25 vendors.

The shop will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday.

l Know a company or manager who has been in business for less than a year that would be ideal for “Ground Floor”? Contact Francie Williamson at francie.williamson@thegazette.com

At a Glance

Owners: Joan Gray, Kellie Sauser and Jennifer Morris

Business: NewBo Shops at 208

Address: 208 12th Avenue SE, Suite D, Cedar Rapids

Email: newboshopsat208@gmail.com

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