Last week I popped into my friend’s store to talk about what it’s like to run a business here in Des Moines. Chrissy’s shop, Domestica, is located at 505 East Grand Avenue, down in the East Village. She sells a wide assortment of stationary, magazines, and prints by local artists. It’s one of my favorite places to shop in the Village because I’m always bumping into friends there and Chrissy always knows what's going on around town.
So in the days leading up to opening the shop, how were you feeling?
Mostly, I felt scared that we weren't going to make it and that we'd end up failing. I think that's what keeps people from trying something; fear of not succeeding. There's a million fears you might have, but honestly, I think the main one is that you're going to fail and look dumb.
My main inspiration for opening Domestica was that I wanted Des Moines to have a shop similar to the cool, quirky ones I visited in Minneapolis and Chicago. I knew a lot of vendors, as well as many local makers and I thought it'd be interesting to see where it could all go if we were to open a store. It helped having friends involved in the process because it meant having people ask me things like what's the worst that can happen by opening this store and failing? Once I started answering those types of questions, it was easier to combat those fears.
Where does the name Domestica come from?
One of my favorite bands changed their name to Domestica and I liked it sounded. Also around that same time, Cursive put out an album and it was titled Domestica. So really that word just kept coming up in my line of vision.
What do you like about being a small business owner here in Des Moines?
I like how easy it is to get something started here. It's so nice being able to call someone up and ask how something works and know you get a quick answer. Like if you don’t understand how something works with your taxes, you can get someone on the phone that's actually willing to sit and explain it to you.
I grew up all over - Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Philadelphia - and I’m used to all kinds of different places. I came out here to go Iowa State and then just never went home. Everyone in my family was totally expecting me to just show back up and I didn’t. I decided to stay here. That surprised me! I expected to go home after the first semester. I was all get me out of here!
But it’s so easy to live here and so easy to find friends here; friends who are actually your friends and who don’t have a lot of secondary reasons or ulterior motives. Relationships just lasts here and I appreciate that a lot.
Do you find people to be friendlier here than on the East Coast?
Friendly's a good for it, but sometimes that word can be offensive to me because it sort of seems like it means “simple” or “down-home folks” and I don’t think it’s that way here at all. With people here in Des Moines, it’s a little different than just being nice. It’s a genuine willingness to help other people.
We’re just a lot nicer because we have time to be and we don’t have to deal with seventeen trains or whatever the heck people have to go through to get home in bigger cities. (Laughing)
Over the last few years, Des Moines has continually been making appearances in all these different publications (Forbes recently named us the nation’s top “up-and-coming downtown”.) I thought that was cool, but I get worried that all this press is going to bring a huge influx of people. What are your thoughts?
I’ve been getting worried, too! I was looking at this weather map and it was showing where the extreme weather was and where it wasn't and Iowa’s weather was, like, somewhere in the middle. I just thought, “Oh my gosh, another terrible storm out East and they’re all going to come to Iowa!" (Laughing)
Is there something you think that Des Moines is lacking?
I think we need something like more commuter-friendly bike paths. I’m glad they put a bike path over on Ingersoll because it makes it easier to get downtown, but it’s also really scary to ride a bike on that street. So maybe a thorough-way on Woodland Avenue where's it quieter? I don't know.
Also, we don’t have a park that’s right smack downtown. It'd be to have one right down here, to have space to just take a breath, and not have to traipse all over to Gray's Lake.
What’s one of your favorite cities besides Des Moines?
New York City, for sure. I think the areas I like the most are Gowanus and Cobble Hill - that area of Brooklyn. People are always saying Brooklyn is full of hipsters and I guess there are certain parts of Williamsburg where you’re walking around thinking that all your clothes suck, sure. But Brooklyn is kind of like Des Moines in a weird way. You can go into the same cafe for three days in a row, and people will start calling out your drink order.
Recently I went to Eatery A and you know that it used to be a Blockbuster video, right? That reminds me of something that would happen in New York....you always hear about these restaurants that used to be hospital wards or something.
I guess Des Moines is more like New York than I thought! Thanks, Chrissy!