Mallory and Jordan Richardson are opening Des Moines Mercantile in Des Moines’ Highland Park Neighborhood. The store at 3707 Sixth Ave. opens on Saturday. Photo by Kathy A. Bolten

A revival is occurring in the business district along Sixth Avenue in Des Moines’ Highland Park Neighborhood. 

The Hiland Bakery, which was shuttered a year ago, reopened in January under new ownership. A coffee shop is slated to open next to the bakery later this summer. And on Saturday, Des Moines Mercantile is opening at 3707 Sixth Ave.

“Until recently, this is something I didn’t think I’d ever be able to pursue,” said Mallory Richardson, who with husband Jordan is opening the store that will sell items mostly made in Iowa. “There’s a lot of shops that you can buy decor. We’re really in it for stuff that is usable and long-lasting and made well. 

“We’re not so much a decor shop as a modern-day general store where we hope everyone is able to find that one thing they are looking for.”

Among the items stocked at the store are Iowa-made jams, salsa, pepper relish and honey; coffee beans and loose-leaf teas; straw brooms and whisks; baskets; wood-carved toys; wool blankets from the Amanas; and prints from Red Door Press.

Most of the buildings along the two-block stretch north of Euclid Avenue were constructed between 1900 and 1940, a time when the area 3 miles north of downtown was bustling with activity. In recent years, several storefronts have become vacant and buildings have fallen into disrepair.

In fall 2019, the Des Moines City Council selected four pilot areas – Oak Park/Highland Park, Beaverdale, Drake and McKinley – in which to begin a concentrated effort to rejuvenate neighborhoods and the business districts within them. 

Among the area’s strengths are its historic business district and closeness to downtown, a report on the neighborhood found. However, the report found that while the district contained about 90,000 square feet of street-level floor space in about 50 shops or offices, more than one-third of the storefronts appeared vacant or were unnoticeable to passers-by. In addition, spaces were outdated and unappealing to tenants.

Neighborhood leaders are working to strengthen the business district by allocating money to update building exteriors and develop a resource team to help attract new businesses and keep existing ones. 

Plans are in place to redesign Euclid Avenue between Second Avenue and 12th Street by reducing vehicle travel lanes from five to three and adding bike lanes and on-street parking. The re-striping of the street was supposed to begin yet this year but the pandemic has pushed the changes to 2021.

When on-street parking along Euclid was removed in the 1980s, creating five lanes of traffic, it turned the road into a freeway, said Drew Kelso, who with wife Kara is opening Slow Down Coffee Co. at 3613 Sixth Ave. The space had been occupied by Hiland Park Hardware. 

“The changes to Euclid created a lot of blight and loss of businesses,” Kelso said. “Everyone rushed by; no one could park on Euclid and get out and walk around the area.”

The changes to Euclid will make the business district more walkable, creating more foot traffic for stores and restaurants, he said.

Mallory and Jordan Richardson are hoping the changes, as well as an increase in businesses along Sixth Avenue, will draw more people to Des Moines Mercantile. 

The couple refurbished the store’s inside space with new shelving and wainscoting. They are working with Neighborhood Development Corp. to make updates to the facade of the building. 

“We’re really excited to bring life back to this area and see people walking up and down the sidewalks again,” Jordan Richardson said. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of activity, outside of the bakery and Chuck’s restaurant.”

“I think what’s happening here is really exciting.”

Des Moines Mercantile 
3707 Sixth Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday
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