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U of I students opening collective retail space at Coralville development

Two U of I students look over some of the furnishings they'll set up for a collective retail...
Two U of I students look over some of the furnishings they'll set up for a collective retail store called the Foundry at Iowa River Landings. The student-run businesses open in mid-September.(KCRG)
Published: Aug. 31, 2018 at 4:59 PM CDT
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Eight current or just-graduated University of Iowa students have ambitious business plans. They’re going to launch a joint retail shop in Coralville and do it in a very visible location.

The U of I students won’t be the first students to start a business, online or brick and mortar, while still in school. But few get the change to do it in such a prominent location as the middle of the fast-growing Iowa River Landing development.

Vako Darjania, who graduated with a master’s degree in May, said it was an opportunity impossible to refuse.

“This is not something you learn at school. They prepare you as much as they can at the university or collegiate level, but this is hands on experience,” he said.

All of the businesses that will go this student-run storefront call the Foundry have a track record with sales through social media, online or at pop-up temporary locations.

But most wouldn’t have considered a commercial retail location, especially one in a prominent commercial development, so soon after school.

Deanna Trumbull, the leasing director for Iowa River Landing and mentor to the students, said the city-owned commercial area wanted to encourage startup businesses and also wanted to keep those young business owners in Iowa.

So the students will get a lease below market rates.

“The hope is this is a way for them to try brick and mortar retail in a way they couldn’t have done before due to the prohibitive costs,” Trumbull said.

Patrick Hagan, another student retailer, says the joint shop will give all the student entrepreneurs experience with floor designs, merchandising, promotions and customer service.

“This is a great opportunity. Just not something we would have pictured doing without the opportunity from the city,” Hagan said.

The businesses sharing space in the Foundry will range from clothing shops to an art shop to furniture design and even a cellphone repair station.

And the mix may change as some student business owners decide the retail life isn’t for them. But others may be so successful they move out to launch individual stores.

Students expects others to move in as space becomes available.

The student-run businesses at Iowa River Landing in Coralville should open sometime in mid-September.

And they’ll have something old to go with the new.

Many of the store fixtures will come from a recently-closed Younkers store nearby.