WATERLOO — A surge of new storefronts are popping up along both sides of the river.
Since last July, 15 businesses have opened in downtown Waterloo, with more on the way, according to Jessica Rucker, executive director of Main Street Waterloo.
“It’s definitely a huge increase from last year,” she said. “Talking with other Main Street communities, people are jealous of how much action we have seen. We have a lot of momentum going on in the downtown area that we’re excited about.”
Pretty Good Co., at 310 E. Fourth St., opened last week by Cedar Falls High School graduates Brandon and Annie Alvarado. It features a full-service graphic design studio with an old-fashioned letter press for handmade printing. A small retail area at the front of the store displays art and unique items by area artists.
At Pretty Good Co., Annie operates a Heidelberg Windmill printing press made in 1960.
“Which is fairly modern as far as old printing presses go,” she said, noting some of the older models date back to the 1920s.
The couple studied graphic design at Iowa State University before moving to the Twin Cities, where Brandon gained advertising design experience and Annie took up a more vintage approach to printing.
“I really like working with my hands, and I like the way ink looks on paper. It just feels a lot more special and cared for,” Annie said.
After leaving Minnesota, the Alvarados traveled the country while contemplating their next move. While they liked the urban feel of a big city, they knew they had support from friends and family in the Cedar Valley.
“We also wanted to start a business and we thought Iowa would be a great place to do that,” she said.
They’re probably on to something. Forbes magazine in 2017 ranked Waterloo No. 35 for Best Small Places for Business & Careers.
The Alvarados landed back in the Cedar Valley last fall and on Monday opened their doors for business.
“There is a nice energy and there’s more and more stuff coming all the time,” Annie said of the central business district. “The newer businesses are kind of our style. Like Cibo and SingleSpeed are things we like to see and people we like to work with.”
A grand opening will be June 21 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, beverages and snacks.