After a number of delays and complicated hurdles preventing new business Esther & Co. from debuting to the public many months ago, owner Regina Frahm was overwhelmed by the positive responses from customers during opening day last week and by the supportive crowd of people who had been waiting outside for the doors to unlock to see what this “modern day mercantile” was all about.
The long-anticipated store officially opened this past Thursday along the 100 block of North Second Avenue West, next door to The Farmer’s Wife. Frahm said the store traffic was steady the entire day, from morning ’til afternoon. Never was there a point when one person wasn’t scrounging through Esther & Co.’s yarn collection, homey decor items, baked goods and fresh-from-the-farm meats.
“We’ve had so much support from the community and people that I don’t even know,” Frahm told the Newton Daily News on Friday. “Even if they didn’t buy something they just had such kind words and said, ‘We’re so glad you’re here!’ and ‘Thank you for not giving up!’ And we also had a lot of questions.”
That is to be expected. Not very many yarn shops have a freezer full of steaks, ground beef and other meat for sale just a few feet away from colorful bundles of thread and wool. Frahm said she’s had to explain the mercantile premise of Esther & Co. to guests, who have the option of purchasing goods from all sorts of producers in town, the state and elsewhere.
Set up like an old school trading post, Esther & Co. is a collaborative effort and features a fair amount of products created by Frahm and several vendors — everything from Iowa-made cleaning products to beard ointments and batik handbags. The store occupies space once filled by the former sports bar, Scoreboard, and was renovated by Newton Elite Properties, LLC.
Much of the merchandise is front-loaded near the entrance and middle section of the shop, with a large open area with lounge seating near the northern end. This area, Frahm said, is ideal for hosting fiber, paper making, wreath and other crafty classes in the near future.
Customers should expect a constantly changing selection. Both local and regional products will shuffle through as the months roll by. The coffee for sale is from Winterset. Local bakers fill the displays with fresh pastries, rolls and cookies early in the morning. Frahm said Esther & Co. will maintain that focus on showcasing smaller producers.
Those are the people that interest her and partly inspired her to open a mercantile store to further highlight and support the efforts of smaller agricultural producers.
“There are so many people doing so many cool things that we don’t even know that they’re doing — and they’re really good at it,” she said. “How fun would it be if you had soft yarn to touch and something tasty to eat? And it just evolved from there.”
As a longtime yarn maker herself, Frahm champions those craftspersons may often be overshadowed by chain corporations. Those people, she added, put “a lot of heart and soul” into their products and work just as hard to make a living. Opening Esther & Co. provides a gateway to those goods.
“It’s not just about opening a store,” she said. “It’s about promoting the world and what we’ve done all these years on our farm and what a lot of producers around the country are doing.
“There are so many talented people in this town alone. We have five people that are baking. We have a caterer that’s filling the freezer case. We have a local person doing jams and jellies and salad dressings, and it’s all seasonal. People are so excited their things are here.”
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org