New shop brings back old-time feel

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When she was a young girl, Jenny Bullock made many memories shopping in downtown Waterloo.

With a little pocket change from her grandmother, she would ride her bike downtown and visit stores like Ben Franklin, Oaks Variety, Paul’s Dry Goods, Gambles and Ahne’s Bakery for candy, toys and doughnuts. 

“That’s what I remember most about my childhood, and that’s what I love about Waterloo – that it’s still a small enough community where folks can walk around and just enjoy the town,” she said.  

Bullock, who still lives in Waterloo, is looking to re-create that nostalgic experience at her new store located at 129 N. Main Street called Waterloo Mercantile Company. 

As a former executive director of the Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and current president of Explore Waterloo, Bullock has plenty of experience with businesses. 

But she and her husband, Dennis, have never owned a brick-and-mortar store until now, despite that being something they have both long been interested in and Jenny’s mother owning The Fabric Center in downtown Waterloo. 

“I’ve always had a love for small businesses and little shops like this,” Jenny said. “When my husband and I would go on vacation, we would just gravitate toward the locally-owned and independent shops and find ourselves talking to the shop owners rather than going to the beach.” 

The couple decided it was finally time for them to try their hand at being small business owners, so they quickly decided to pursue the downtown location when it became available. 

“We just knew this would be a good spot,” Jenny noted. “We’d still be on Main Street in the historic district, which was really important to us.” 

Once the couple secured the space, they replaced some lighting, repainted and built fixtures like the counter and bookcase. Dennis is an amateur carpenter. 

Then, it was a matter of moving in the inventory of items Jenny has been testing for over a year at craft shows around the country. 

Those items – which mainly come from the craft market in Atlanta – include home décor items, jewelry, bath and body products, baby toys like stuffed animals, kitchenware, gift options, pet products, wedding items, vintage posters, custom quilts made by Jenny’s mother, Hammond’s candies and stationary products. 

Jenny said the store aims to have “a little bit of everything.” 

“That was kind of the plan: to have a general store, mercantile feel,” she said. 

Avoiding overlap with similar Waterloo businesses is also part of the plan, as Jenny said she also wants them to succeed and will refer her customers to them if possible. 

“Having more retail shops for folks to stop in at and visit makes Waterloo as a whole more desirable to spend a whole day in,” she said. 

Waterloo Mercantile Company opens this Saturday at 9 a.m. 

There will be a giveaway for a $100 gift card at the grand opening. The winner will be announced at the end of the weekend. Individuals get one free entry and can earn more by purchasing items.

Patrons can also save by wearing a Waterloo Mercantile Company T-shirt or bringing a coupon the business has been handing out at functions around town.  

Additionally, cookies with the store’s logo will be available. 

“It’s just going to be a fun time,” Bullock predicted. 

Waterloo Mercantile Company will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. 

Call 939-6372, follow the business on Facebook or Instagram or visit waterloomerc.com to learn more. 

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