So much of what makes Des Moines unique is its small business community. There is something special about the people of Des Moines in that we truly love, patronize and are loyal to our local businesses in a way that feels distinct to this community. At Des Moines Mercantile, we have the privilege of not only being part of this local small business community but showcasing more than 60 other local makers through our shop. Here we hope to help you find local, hand-crafted goods that inspire simplicity and slowness in your life.
While not everything in our shop is Iowa-made, upwards of 80% of it is. Meaning that when you make a purchase here, you’re not only supporting us and our dream of owning a modern-day general store, you’re supporting your local farmer who grew, harvested and milled that flour you just bought (Hey, Early Morning Harvest). You’re supporting your local soap maker who spends hours finding the perfect combination of ingredients for your bar of soap (Hey, Locust Grove Farm). You’re supporting your local wood carver who hand carved that wooden spoon you’re taking home to stir your soup with tonight (Hey, Spring Run Design Company). And dozens more.
This not only keeps your money local because it’s literally going into the hands of other local business owners (who will then likely use some of it to pick up takeout from their favorite local restaurant before heading home for the night), but it also keeps the sales tax circulating in your community as well as opposed to online purchases from big box companies.
Because so many of the products we carry are hand-crafted by our makers, each item will be truly unique. No two brooms by Franklin Broom Works will be exactly the same, no two charcuterie boards made by Mallory’s dad. It can feel like a treasure hunt to come in and turn over every tea towel by Fischer Goods until you’ve found the exact natural dye pattern that speaks to you. Every item made by hand feels like an item made by hand, something that was created with love and attention and skill by its maker. We take pride in providing a place for these items to find their forever homes.
That handmade aspect that makes each item unique is also what makes it slow. It definitely takes some practice in patience to commit to shopping local when we are so used to the convenience that modern shopping experiences offer today.
For example, a wooden bowl made by Mallory’s dad, Brian Peterson, takes several weeks from start to finish. The coveted First Light Pottery, carried exclusively at Des Moines Mercantile, takes Emily Phillips countless hours to make in batches in her home, and it sells out in a matter of days.
No, shopping local isn’t always convenient. But it is worthwhile. It is responsible. It is healthier for the community and the environment, and you ultimately end up with a way more quality product and service than you would at a big chain store.
It is true that shopping local and especially handmade products can be more expensive. There is so much more time and labor involved in creating something without a factory. So much higher expense for a maker to do things in small batches instead of cranking things out a thousand at a time. And it is incredibly important to respect yourself by respecting your budget. So what are the best ways to support local when you have a strict budget you need to stick to? Next time you’re at a national chain store, ask yourself, is this something I could buy locally? This bag of flour is $4. Could I afford to get one for $7 from a local grocer? This birthday card is $3. Could I afford to get one for $5 from a local stationary store? Try having a set item that you buy from a local shop regularly. Can you commit to stopping in to your local coffee shop once a week and buying your beans from them?
Des Moines Mercantile exists because of our love for our local community and our love for our local makers. It is an honor to be a part of this small business community, to get to interact with all of you on a daily basis and to get to introduce you to some of the amazingly gifted and thoughtful makers in our community, to help you love local, hand-crafted and slow.
All photos by Meg Shupe Photography