By Tanya O’Connor
Here’s a fun fact from Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jessica Rilling: This small northeast Iowa city boasts over 40 women-owned businesses in the downtown district alone.
Rilling invites visitors to shop, save, sip and (hopefully) soak up a bit of spring sunshine at the 2022 Women’s Weekend Out (WWO) event scheduled for Friday, April 1 through Sunday, April 3. No registration fee is required to attend.
This spring’s festivities mark the 20th anniversary of Decorah’s WWO celebration. Committee officials note that it’s held “at this time year to kick off Decorah’s robust tourist season and provide a boost to businesses at the end of a first business quarter.” Along with spring retail savings, guests may enjoy live music, a style show, comedy night, a morning yoga session, brunch options and more.
Perhaps unique to a community the size of Decorah is the plentiful number of retail options featuring clothing and accessories, lending to the popularity of the annual style show and brunch, scheduled this year at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 2 at Hotel Winneshiek. “We have guests who regularly attend the annual style show, and then shop from one end of our downtown to the other,” states long-time downtown women’s clothing retailer Joan Tupy of J. Tupy’s on Water Street.
Yet Rilling’s quick to note that the weekend contains a myriad of other shopping and activity options, including retailers offering sewing, quilting and knitting supplies, handmade candles, books, home décor, kitchenware, toys, used clothing and more. Additionally, she adds, “we invite guests to enjoy attractions such as Vesterheim and Seed Savers Exchange, or rent a bicycle and experience our Trout Run Trail.” Dining options, she adds, are plentiful as well.
2022 WWO activities kick off with a “Spring Seltzer Soiree” from 4-6 p.m. at Rendered Unique, 309 E. Water Street. This purveyor of home goods and décor will feature works from popular Scrapwork and live music courtesy of Bree Sauer and Katie Stegge.
More live music is set for the evening from 7-10 p.m. at Impact Coffee, 101 W. Water Street. This family-owned and operated coffee bar and roaster lies in the beautifully restored and historic former J.C. Penney building in the heart of downtown Decorah. Attendees will enjoy an evening of local blues and American roots music by the award-winning Avey Grouws Trio. The band’s 2021 sophomore album, “Tell Tale Heart” debuted at an impressive number seven on the Billboard Blues Album chart.
The annual Style Show Brunch Saturday morning at 9 a.m. starts the day’s activities at Hotel Winneshiek. Brunch favorites will be crafted by 301 Eatery of downtown Decorah.
New participants in this year’s festivities, notes Rilling, include Toppling Goliath Brewing Company and Convergence CiderWorks. Toppling Goliath will host a “Tasting Experience” event from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Two time slots are available per hour, with a maximum of 10 guests each. Participants will enjoy beverage tasting with a TG team member, a facility tour and receive a souvenir glass. “Convergence CiderWorks,” says Rilling, “is a new local business that’s really brought their A-game to the weekend as well. Saturday from 3-5 they’re hosting a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and local food fair, along with more weekend options.” Additionally, downtown Decorah’s Rubaiyat will host “Sangria Saturday” from 3-4 p.m.
Doors open at T’Bock’s Sports Bar & Grill at 7:30 p.m. for a live comedy night featuring award-winning Midwestern comedy veterans Mike Lucas and Nathan Timmel. The show begins at 8:30 p.m.
Greet Sunday morning with a “Gentle Morning Yoga” session, 9:30 a.m. at Convergence CiderWorks. Both Convergence and Toppling Goliath are hosting brunch events, as well as Rubaiyat’s weekly Sunday event. Guests also may enjoy “the classics” at Family Table on Mechanic Street or stop by Decorah’s newest downtown addition, Kozy Pie Shoppe. Finish off your weekend back at CiderWorks for live music by folk and Americana influenced RavensFire from 4-6 p.m.
Attendees of this year’s WWO event are encouraged to visit the group’s Facebook page, decorahareachamber.com or (563) 382-3990 for individualized business details. Information about events requiring reservations, ticket pricing and other information is available.
A “goodbye to winter”
It’s no secret that events like WWO are months in the making. It’s also no secret that finalizing most larger event planning has been riddled with uncertainties for the past two years. A lot of life, to many, has felt like a long winter – for a long time – and especially for small, independent business owners. That’s why the excitement of Decorah’s local business owners is so palpable. In their words:
“This is when we say goodbye to winter! Our downtown is so walkable and it’s easy to fill up your weekend schedule with shopping, dining and entertainment. Our committee worked hard to collaborate so visitors have the best possible experience.” – Lisa Lantz, The Getup
“As a new business, I’m very excited to join such a popular event. We at the stores have fun too! We’re able to offer drinks and specials, as well as showcase all the new options we’ve just brought home from market.” – Jamie Gavle, Rendered Unique
“This is the most fun weekend of the spring. Downtown is so joyful. As a shop owner, it’s one of my favorite events because I see women making time for themselves. For the time that they are in my store, I get to be a part of each group. It’s such a blessing.” – Stephanie Henning, Modish
Gail Bolson Magnuson is the owner of Agora Arts, located next to Hotel Winneshiek. This year marks the 30th anniversary of her dedication to providing a retail forum for local, regional and national artists. Magnuson’s seen a lot of WWO celebrations. Members just a couple of years into the event, she recalls, included herself, Nancy Nelson, Margaret Walter, Jeni Grouws, Marilyn Larson, Nikki Brevig, Kristina Falck, Sara Juve and Annique Brown.
“This annual event,” says Magnuson, “was created to promote our beautiful downtown. It’s meant to boost small businesses.” She adds that, “over the years, we’ve found it’s not only a great “women’s” weekend; it’s the perfect event to welcome – and even introduce – people to our robust downtown shopping district as well as the rest of Decorah.”