When someone at Deb's Corner Cafe in historic downtown Manning suggested I head across the street to check out "The Market Place", I expected to find a nice gift shop with a modest selection of items and a simple coffee bar.
Boy was I wrong.
When I walked in, I discovered something totally different and unexpected. I don't know if they have security cameras pointed on the entrance, but if they checked the tape from a few Saturdays ago...it might just show me wide eyed with my jaw slightly dropped. I found a large and stunning display of nearly 6,000 square feet of unique, one-of-a-kind, and diverse items for sale in a creative, upscale, and elaborate setting. From the beautiful wood flooring, metal roof and rafters, exposed original brick, and pretty lighting, this business is located in a town with just 1,500 people but could just as easily be found in a city of 150,000 or even 1.5 million.
As they note on their website, "We have new arrivals weekly with an ever-changing selection of one-of-a-kind finds and new unique items for your home. We also have a great selection of handcrafted items including jewelry, furniture, rocking horses, crocheted scarves and head wraps, hand painted signs, and more! Our 80+ vendors keep our inventory fresh, unique, and affordable. And you'll love the great prices and selection of women's clothes."
Based on what I see on Facebook and Instagram, they also offer classes. Not only does that provide fun, it builds community and cohesion.
In one corner, I spotted a spot for children to play while their parents or grandparents shop.
There is a nice coffee bar that offers a sizable selection of hot and cold coffee drinks. This is comparable to any coffee shop you'd find in any metropolitan area. I got myself a hot peppermint mocha. It was very good. They also offer baked goods and other snacks. Like their merchandise, the menu changes with the seasons and they even offer free Wi-Fi.
As I learned from reading this very informative article from the Carroll Times after the store opened, the owner, Jaime England, is a Manning native who spent some years away from the town before moving back. She also served our country as part of the Armed Forces. In one corner near the coffee bar is a map where you can mark where you are from, sign a guest book, and also take a toy soldier home to remind you to keep our deployed men and women in your thoughts and prayers.
I want to commend this business owner for investing in her hometown and for investing in rural Iowa. In addition, dozens of other local entrepreneurs now also have a great location to sell their wares and build their businesses and brands. Manning is a participant in Main Street Iowa and they have been helpful in getting this business started - but also - in getting it entered into contests. They were the 2017 winners of Main Street Iowa's best Interior Rehabilitation.
If you are in the Manning area, be sure to stop in to check this place out. Our state is blessed with many unique retailers, but this is unlike anything else I've seen in my travels around the state. Not to mention, there's a lot of other great things to see in Manning while you are in town.