WATERLOO — The Ivy Trellis has returned to the city of its origins, only this time on Waterloo’s main street.
The gift and card shop opened downtown at 200 E. Fourth St. a little more than a week ago.
Its hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Beginning today, the store will open on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. through Dec. 23.
For eight years, the store was a mainstay of downtown Cedar Falls, first on Main Street and then at Washington and Fifth streets, until it closed in June. Its first nine years were at a strip mall near West Ninth Street and Mitchell Avenue in Waterloo.
Circumstances caused owner Mary Heller to close up shop in Cedar Falls.
“I was having health issues and decided to have back surgery,” she said. As a result, Heller “didn’t sign another lease. Once my surgery was over, I decided I wasn’t ready to retire yet.”
After learning the location at the corner of East Fourth and Sycamore streets was available, she took the plunge again. The lifelong Waterloo resident looks to downtown with evangelistic zeal now that she owns a business there.
“We need to somehow change the thoughts of the public and other entrepreneurs who are starting a business,” she said. “Right now is the time to go downtown. Things are looking better than they ever have.”
She noted that establishments like restaurants and coffee shops have popped up and are doing well. “But we definitely need more retail down here,” said Heller. “I would like to see downtown Waterloo come back again.”
That takes her back to a time more than 50 years ago, when as a young person she would hang out on Saturdays at Black’s Department Store — across the street from where Ivy Trellis is now located.
“I used to sit up in the mezzanine and watch all the customers,” recalled Heller. Up and down the street, there were also plenty of other places to shop.
“Women’s and men’s clothing, furriers, luggage stores, shoes — just everything was downtown at that time,” she said. Eventually, she worked at Walkers Shoes and helped open its store at Crossroads Center after the mall was built.
Heller didn’t grasp the extent of downtown’s revival “until we came down to this corner,” including how many people had moved into lofts and apartments there. “I think it’s wonderful that I see many young people downtown,” she said, expressing hope that they’ll shop at her store. She is also hoping to attract clientele from a wider area and has already been visited by loyal customers who followed her from previous locations, including at least one who’s been with her since the first Waterloo store.
People can find collectibles, décor, food gifts, jewelry, floral and seasonal items, and cards — the store carries Hallmark and a couple other brands. She suggested shoppers should be able to find gifts for many people on their Christmas list.
“I kind of try to make it eclectic,” said Heller. “We try to appeal to a lot of different age levels in what we carry.”
She strives to sell American-made products, a number of Iowa brands. Among those are items by Davenport company Isabel Bloom, Milkhouse Candles of Osage, Sincere Surroundings of Rock Rapids, Des Moines’ Dona Bela Shreds and Pella product distributor Heritage Lace.
“It’s not always easy to find Iowa products,” she noted. “You need to support your local and your state companies because if you don’t they won’t exist.”
Heller also has university-branded merchandise for Northern Iowa, Iowa and Iowa State.
“We have not chosen everything that we will carry,” she added. “This is going to be a learning experience this first year, trying to figure out what approach to (take with) the customer base here.”
Even as customers browsed the store’s well-stocked shelves in recent days, more boxes waiting to be unpacked sat near the door. Heller said staff will remain busy not only making sales but getting products out on the floor during the coming weeks.
“If they stopped in every week from here to Christmas they’re going to see new things put out,” she said.