Czech Village/New Bohemia District saw boom in businesses over the last year

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 5:49 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District saw 30 new businesses open in the two neighborhoods over the last year.

Lisa Brislawn launched The Funky Zebras Boutique in May 2020, several months into the pandemic.

“I was nervous, but I was also excited, because this was a new adventure for me,” Brislawn said.

She said over the last year, she’s made a complete career change, now selling women’s clothing, jewelry and home décor full-time on the corner of the Czech Village neighborhood in Cedar Rapids.

And, she’s not alone. She’s one of 30 small businesses that opened in the Czech Village/New Bohemia District over the last year.

Director of Strategic Development Monica Vernon says the 30 new businesses in a single year is astounding, and that a typical good year could bring in five to ten new businesses.

“We had people come in here and join our district, Czech Village, New Bohemia, in the middle of a pandemic. And everybody who lasted worked like heck,” Vernon said.

The area did lose eight businesses over the last year, resulting in a net gain of 22 businesses. Several more are expected to join in the coming months. It held its State of the District event last week, celebrating its businesses for creativity during the pandemic and derecho.

The District offered several incentive programs during the pandemic, including selling around $15,000 of ‘District Dollars’ to give stores a boost, as well as distributing gift cards.

“We went out and bought 500 $10 gift certificates from all of these stores, made sure that they were handed out all throughout the community, and we feel like at minimum, that was then made to be $15,000, and maybe as much as $50,000,” Vernon said.

“So many people are coming in that are telling me they’re shopping local, supporting small businesses,” Brislawn said.

She says she’s already seeing an uptick in foot traffic in 2021, and that she’s excited to keep growing alongside her community.

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