Siouxland women dedicated to reviving main streets through shopping event

Updated: Nov. 24, 2022 at 6:05 PM CST
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MOVILE, IA (KTIV) - Step inside Hardly General and you will find three women busy planning this year’s Rural Route Ramble. Marissa Molland, Melissa Nelson and Kari Cassens each bring their ideas to the table.

The women pioneered a shopping experience in late 2020 to bring life back into small business storefronts during the pandemic.

“A lot of our friends that have small businesses in our small rural towns have suffered over the last six to eight months. How can we help them and have fun at the same time, we thought, let’s go and do a bus trip. And let’s take some of our friends and go visit small towns and the businesses that we like to visit and shop at. And it kind of turned into this beautiful, awesome, bigger picture than that event called the rural route Ramble. And so the very first year that we did it in 2020, we had like 35 vendors and we highlighted small business owners in maybe six or seven small towns in rural Siouxland,” said Nelson.

In its third year, it has grown into a two-day shopping road trip through 13 Northwest Iowa towns to browse 75+ vendors.

“The feedback is overwhelmingly positive from the vendors and from the shoppers as well. The vendors, they, most of them have come back every year that we’ve done this,” said Nelson.

Twenty minutes on East Highway 20 -- you’ll find western boho boutique The Punchy Flare in Correctionville. Owner Brittany Hunwardsen’s store is wrapping up its first year, gaining large traction since launching her brick-and-mortar storefront during last year’s ramble.

“It was more than I would have ever thought. So many, just so many people in the town of Correctionville, supporting, supporting other local businesses in town. It was amazing,” said Hunwardsen. “Just so many people, it’s, I mean, we had people come in that were from Nebraska. So it’s just, the girls putting on this event do such a good job advertising that we’ve reached people even out of state that come to do this. "

While it is convenient for holiday shopping, Molland says the purpose extends past Christmas gifts.

“If you’re busy on December second and third and you can’t make it, our goal is that you learn about a small business, you learn about a community, and you’re planning a trip to go there another time. You know, this isn’t the only weekend of the year to support these towns in these communities,” said Molland.

It doesn’t stop there: Nelson and Molland have a business called “Meet Me on Main Street.” Through that, they plan smaller events throughout the year to get people back into small towns.

This year’s ramble runs on Dec. 2 and 3, Friday from 10-6 and Saturday from 9-4.