Growth by small businesses is an important part of Muscatine’s economy. Most of the community’s businesses are small, according to U.S. census data from 2012, the last year for which numbers are available. The census identified 941 businesses in Muscatine County, including 704 in Muscatine proper – 48 of which employed no more than four people.
A recent addition to our community is Creations by Oz, a store located in downtown Muscatine owned by Melissa Osborne since May 1, 2015. This woman-owned business was first opened in St Louis, MO, in 2007 then moved to Iowa City in 2011.
“After several years of relocating for my husband’s career with a large corporation, we decided to put down roots and focus on our family business. We started with a clean slate basing our initial search on a number of factors: schools, cost of living, and community. Also important was proximity to extended family and our customers/artist suppliers,” said Osborne. “We considered several Iowa locations including Dubuque, Waterloo, Iowa City, Quad Cities, Amana Colonies, and Pella. Our final search was narrowed to Muscatine, Pella, Dubuque, Chicago, and Branson, Mo. We selected Muscatine over other opportunities because the schools are a good fit for our daughter, the gorgeous Mississippi River views, low cost of living and the developing downtown opportunities.”
According to Osborne, “the business environment in downtown Muscatine has turned out to be more than we hoped for. The city has been supportive in helping us obtain the proper permits and licenses we needed for our current business and future plans. The city and local banks had ready-made funding and grants we could plug into. The history of the downtown district, the history of our building, proximity to the river, Riverside Park, and the Pearl Button Museum has helped us promote Muscatine as a destination. The other businesses are generally family-owned and very unique. The owners provide great customer service while providing a welcoming and enjoyable destination experience. In addition to our new customers in Muscatine, we have several long-standing customers who travel regularly from Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and the Quad Cities to see us. We have also had success in attracting some of our initial customers from as far away as St Louis and Chicago. We jokingly like to think Creations by Oz is that great, but, in reality, it’s the destination experience that our downtown community collectively provides that keeps them coming back.”
Creations by Oz’s primary offering is custom-made jewelry and accessories. Additionally, they offer handmade candles, soaps, apparel and décor from local and regional artists. Recently, they added wine and craft beer available for carry out and will soon offer a special blend of coffees and other items to complement their chocolate truffles and other treats. Store hours are Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. -6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
“Our goal is to provide a unique and new experience with every visit. Wine tastings and other fun things are held Thursday evenings 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Follow us on Facebook for seasonal hours and special offerings,” said Osborne.
According to Osborne, their business philosophy included purchasing the building in which the store is located: “We consider ourselves stewards of the property. In everything, we do our best to pay respect to those who have come before us and build for those who will come after. We do most of the work ourselves to save cost, but hire licensed professionals when required by city permit. Since April, we have invested about $5,000 restoring some of the history that dates back to 1883. We have restored a large portion of the tile floor and the display cabinets that George Volger installed when he first opened Volger Dependable Jewelry in 1913. We have also restored the front entry display cases that date back to when Lange’s Jewelry was opened in the late 50’s. We are in the process of restoring George Volger’s walnut inlay walls, vault, and silver backed mirrors at the back of the store in preparation to make this area into a wine bar.”
Through inspiration from the current downtown activities, events held in Riverside Park, and the investment in downtown prompted by the Mississippi Corridor Project, Osborne has plans to expand into a new business adventure called Hanna’s OzSome Treats which will include bakery and dessert-like items along with coffee, wine and craft beer. “We recently began construction on a commercial kitchen in what had been the jeweler’s work shop. We are converting an underutilized back room into an entertainment/meeting area that will have a view of the river. It will have comfortable couches and a boardroom-like table for meetings. On display will be many of the artifacts we collected that tell the history of our store. Investment for the project is up to $50,000 and is made possible by the City of Muscatine Small Business Forgivable Loan Program and a grant by the City of Muscatine Downtown Revitalization Project,” said Osborne. Hanna’s OzSome Treats may be open as early as spring of 2016.
In addition to this expansion, Osborne stated that she and her husband are also working to start a small two room bed and breakfast in their home “to accommodate customers, artists, and other visitors they bring to the community.” The Osbornes purchased the Rectory of the old St Mary’s Church just on the edge of the West Hill Neighborhood in August and immediately invested roughly $10,000 in urgent repairs of the roof, improved grading to eliminate water into the house and has started to remodel one of the rooms with plans for a private entrance created from what had been the old church bath. They anticipate the first room of the yet-to-be-named Bed and Breakfast to be open as early as fall of 2016.