Shop the Blocks Spring Into Fashion Q&A Part One

Advance tickets are $7 at

Come 4:00 p.m. on May 9th, downtown Lincoln will be overrun by a mad dash of avid shoppers, descending on 24 downtown boutiques in search of great deals on everything from books, clothing and jewelry to cell phones, shoes and art supplies. Advance registration for the fourth biannual event is $7 ($10 day of event) and shoppers can register now at

We spoke with a handful of retailers participating in the Spring 2013 event to learn a little bit more about their respective businesses and what events like Shop the Blocks mean to them.

Follow this series on our Facebook page over the next few weeks leading up to the event. And thanks to our sponsors at KFRX, Screen Ink, Single Barrel, Leisure Limousine & Sedan and Embassy Suites for helping make this event possible.

                                        A Novel Idea will offer 20% off all Cooking,
                                              Gardening, Quilting & Craft Books

How long have you been in business now?

“22 years!” - Cinnamon Dokken, A Novel Idea, 118 N. 14th St.

“In August it will be 10 years.” - Peggy Gomez, Gomez Art Supply, 120 N. 14th St.

“Just over 19 months, we opened in August 2011.” - Ashlie Hadden, Embellish, 144 N. 13th St.

“Duo opened its doors May 7, 2011” - Betsy Sperling & Nicole Dewald, Duo Shoes, 1309 O St.

“The Black Market was opened in 2004.  In October, it will mark our 9th year in business.  The Public Shoes, inside the Black Market was opened in October 2008, we will be celebrating 5 years this fall.” - Jackie Geist, Black Market/The Public, 1033 O St., Suite 101

“Although the store has only been around for a few years, I have been in business for about a decade.” - Jessica Plymate, aorta, 1416 O St (second floor of Parrish Project)

“Hunter Gatherer has been open since August of 2012, so not quite a year yet.” - Toby Burnham, Hunter Gatherer, 1416 O St. (second floor of Parrish Project)

                            Aorta is offering 20% off regular prices store wide.

What would you say have been your biggest challenges of growing as a downtown business?

“When you first open a business, you have lots to learn about your product, customer service and best business practices. I was very young when I opened shop, so I mostly learned on the go. Downtown was (and is) a great environment for me. Its proximity to the University, offices, museums, restaurants and retail makes it a destination for many people, so we quickly developed a base of regular customers. The other downtown business owners were also very supportive and friendly.” - Cinnamon Dokken, A Novel Idea

“Parking. Getting people that haven’t been downtown in years to want to come downtown.” - Peggy Gomez, Gomez Art Supply

“Getting people to understand the advantages of shopping downtown more often - there are so many wonderful businesses! Embellish gets new merchandise 1-3 times per week so there is always something new to see. Additionally we only get up to 6 pieces per style, so it is a great way to differentiate yourself from the masses. You know you won’t see someone else out and about with your same outfit!” - Ashlie Hadden, Embellish

“A major challenge we have faced since opening our doors is getting our name to resonate with Lincoln shoppers. We continually find new, creative ways to advertise, but we still hear, ‘I had no idea your store even existed.’ We are still a young store, and know establishing ourselves as a go-to store for everyone will take some time.” - Betsy Sperling and Nicole Dewald, Duo Shoes

“A challenge that we have run into is the fact that we can’t keep the racks full.  We rely on the Public to stock our inventory. We need more people bringing in their unwanted items to keep the racks stacked to keep up with the demand from our shoppers. Another rising challenge is educating the public about the First Hour Free Parking.  Customers are so use to meter parking but parking in the garage across the street on 11th will save them the money and the hassle of worrying about finding an open meter.” - Jackie Geist, The Black Market

“The biggest challenge about being a downtown business is the parking myth.  There is parking downtown!” - Matel Rokke, Tsuru, 114 N. 14th St.

“We have been here for 37 years, maybe 15 -20 years ago there was an issue being downtown - not any more for us! People know we are here - they come to destination stores!” - Ann Ringlein, Lincoln Running Company, 1213 Q St.

“The biggest challenge for me has been being able to commit myself fully to the project. As a full-time student, Hunter Gatherer sometimes has to take the backseat to other priorities. I wish I could devote myself to it 100%.” - Toby Burnham, Hunter Gatherer

                            Hunter Gatherer will offer 20% off regular prices store wide.

Shop the Blocks is an event that encourages a sense of community within the downtown shopping district. Do you see that sense of community outside of this event? How so?

“The Parrish building as a great sense of community.  First Fridays are certainly about community.” - Peggy Gomez, Gomez Art Supply

“I love Shop the Blocks. It’s fun for the businesses to cooperate on such a large event – and it’s a great way for the public to see the huge number and variety of shops downtown. Many people get in a rut, going to the mall. When they come downtown, they realize that there are lots and lots of products they can’t get anywhere else. Also, the shops downtown are run by owners who have a vast knowledge of their product and an incentive to provide the best customer service experience.

In the past few years, many new shops have opened downtown and the area has a renewed sense of energy and vibrancy. Most of the new shop owners I know are young women and there is a new sense of collaboration in the neighborhood. There has always been a friendly, neighborhood feel downtown – but there’s a spark now. We do more events together like Scarlet Days, downtown’s back-to-school sidewalk sale, and Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving when people make a special effort to support local business. I’ve also noticed the window displays in the downtown area have become more stylish. It’s a fun area to explore these days!” - Cinnamon Dokken, A Novel Idea

“Shop the Blocks has really brought the downtown business owners together to collaborate on an event that benefits us all. After seeing such a success with an event like this I think it has really taught us that working together can be great for boosting business A collaborative environment among the downtown retailers allows us to create a friendly place for people to shop. We all give customers recommendations and I always send them to neighboring stores. I think you’ll hear the same from other business owners as well.” - Ashlie Hadden, Embellish

“Most definitely. So many of our customers are supporters of local businesses.  The downtown shopping district is filled with businesses owned and operated by those who reside in Lincoln and our customers love that.  Throughout the week we see the familiar faces of those who work close by who pop in to see what is new or even just to say hi. On any given Saturday groups of shoppers grab lunch downtown and then spend the day making their rounds at all the boutiques.  It is so amazing to see the appreciation from the community.” - Betsy Sperling and Nicole Dewald, Duo Shoes

“Shop the Blocks is a great way for all of us to work together.  We see it happening more and more especially as a collective way to advertise and let people know the vast amount of shopping that is downtown.” - Matel Rokke, Tsuru

“I definitely think Lincoln is very fortunate in that our downtown scene is one big community. Most of the locally owned businesses know each other and want to see each business thrive. Lincoln is the perfect size to maintain close business relations with other business owners. Being a part of the downtown culture for the past several years, I have personally come to know many awesome, independent people who want to see Lincoln thrive and will help each other to do just that. I love Lincoln because it does have such a great sense of community.” - Toby Burnham, Hunter Gatherer

Stay tuned for part two of our Q&A later this week!

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