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One of a Kind

For Sandra Geronimo and Sarah Reed, owners of 1st Avenue Collective in Winterset, nothing makes them happier than seeing the “ah-ha” moment on a customer’s face when someone purchases or receives an item from their artisan market made especially for them. This November, the owners are celebrating the shop’s fourth anniversary, and countless “ah-ha’s” from community that has supported them over the years. 

A Unique Store, Offering Unique Items

In 2015, while visiting family, Ohio natives Geronimo and Reed fell in love with Winterset’s small-town feel. At the time, the two were working various craft festivals in the Buckeye state, selling custom-made jewelry and other creatives — all while dreaming of one day opening a shop of their own.

“We envisioned a brick and mortar store where we could sell our own things while promoting the creativity of others,” said Reed. “We also wanted to build a business where people could sell their work at reasonable prices and help them continue working on their creative processes.”

1st Avenue Collective, Winterset, Iowa

After the two came across Winterset’s historic Madison County Jail, they knew they’d found the right venue. “When this old jail became available, we thought it was unusual — but in a good way.” said Reed. “You can still see the prison graffiti that dates to the late 1980s. And the jail cells, bars, doors, floors and walls have been preserved as they were when active. All these original features add to our unique style and great creative space.”

The uniqueness of 1st Avenue Collective doesn’t end at its location. Everything in the store, including jewelry, pottery, woodwork, wall art and more, are all hand-crafted. Often, Reed and Geronimo share the artist’s statement or the story of where the piece was made with buyers. Reed and Geronimo will even help create a custom item specifically for its recipient, like a ring recently made for a local resident.

“This past summer, a young man came into the store and asked Sandra to make an engagement ring for his soon-to-be fiancé,” said Reed. “He shared what he wanted, which was pretty simple. Two weeks later, the young man came back in, and rather than Sandra making it, she taught him how to do it — and he made his fiancé’s wedding ring.”

Winterset's Artistic Development

When 1st Avenue Collective opened, there were already a handful of jewelers, glass blowers and painting stores in town. Geronimo and Reed’s store fit somewhere in the middle between fine arts and crafts and immediately helped contribute to the artistic development in Winterset.

“It is nice to see that we are inspiring others, both inside and outside of our store,” said Reed. “Over the years, we’ve seen a handful of other stores open with an emphasis on the craft side of creativity. All of which add to the artistic atmosphere of Winterset.”1st Avenue Collective, Winterset, Iowa

Another way the two are contributing to the Winterset’s creative makeup is through a variety of jewelry classes they offer. Taught by Geronimo, the classes often attract out of towners from as far away as Omaha and Kansas City.

“The classes make for a great girl’s night out event or even family gathering,” said Reed. “We’ve had people bring their extended family in town for the holidays, come in and make jewelry or work on a project together. And that is fun for us to see — the way family members engage with each other, perhaps in new ways, and create something together.”

Looking back, Reed says that they were welcomed right from the start. “Two things really struck me when we moved here,” Reed said. “The first was the welcome that we received — the hospitality of folks. The old saying, ‘Iowa nice,’ well, that is a real thing — let me tell you! The second is the pride that people have in this community. When you walk around the courthouse square here, it is evident that people are invested in this community, and we are proud to be a part of it.”

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