Des Moines’ East Village is home to Raygun and Zombie Burger, both famous trademarks of the city. But the historic area also has numerous small niche shops that many people often overlook.
Plain Talk Books & Coffee is one of these shops. It offers an expansive selection of both new and used books of every genre imaginable along with literary paraphernalia like T-shirts and bookmarks.
There’s also a little cafe nestled right beside the bookshelves. You can grab a steaming cup of joe or enjoy homemade soups, sandwiches and baked goods. A creaky staircase leads to the second floor, revealing a reading room with lounging chairs and even more books.
The building is fairly old — which only adds to its character — and Plain Talk is still in the process of renovating the upstairs area of the store. But, as store manager Anneke Gustafson said the shop continues to draw people in since it is the only bookstore in the area and the cozy atmosphere is irresistible.
Just down the street from Plain Talk is Porch Light, a vintage-themed antique shop that screams “cute.” The shelves are stocked with beautiful kitchenware, candles, home decor and locally made jewelry. They have wall hangings and other small decorations to instantly brighten up a dorm room or apartment.
Ephemera is a shop similar to Porch Light, but its major specializations are invitations (which clients can custom order for big events) and greeting cards.
Owner Karen Brady, who first started the company from her Colorado apartment, claims the shop started as more of an idea. She loves how cards provide a physical connection between two people. She’s heard heartbreaking stories from people buying sympathy cards as well as sweet stories about the customer’s “person” during the Valentine’s Day rush. She describes Ephemera as simply a “sweet, nice, happy store.”
Vanity and Glamour Cosmetics is a local cosmetic company across the street from Raygun. Its joyfully bright and decorative storefront instantly catches the eye. The doors and wooden panels are painted in vibrant colors and a string with colorful rags is draped above the entrance. Inside, funky artwork covers the gold walls and a massive vanity holds lipsticks, rouges and eye shadows of all colors, and customers are free to try on whichever shade suits their fancy. The shop also provides professional makeup application by appointment.
Fleet Feet Sports is the one-stop shop for athletes—especially anyone who loves running. They carry various athletic brands of clothing and sports gear along with an impressive selection of footwear from brands like Nike and Adidas. However, the employees pointed out that the shop also stocks items not offered by big box stores like Scheel’s.
Something that makes Fleet Feet different from other shops is the weekly group runs that it hosts for anyone who wishes to participate. The store acts as a meeting place for participants before each run. It posts information about the runs and other training sessions through their Facebook page and e-newsletters.
Each shop has something different to offer, but one sentiment remained constant: supporting these independent shops not only benefits the owners but also the entire Des Moines community.