Meet the Shop Keep: Jennifer of Eden
When I moved to Des Moines from New York City a little over three years ago, there were two things that made me think I would be okay living here. One was the veggie falafel at Proof, and the other was being able to stock up on Kiehls at eden. On my first visit here, I met Jennifer, who told me about the neighborhood and offered advice on where I should live. And I found that her store not only offered a wealth of lovely items (which I fully intended to treat myself to), but a friendly place for me to get my bearings in a new town.
Name: Jennifer Hansen
Shop name: eden
City/State: Des Moines, Iowa
Amy: In two sentences or less, tell me about your shop.
Jennifer: My shop is essentially a bath boutique, with a small well-edited home and baby area where I carry products that are hard to find in the Midwest.
A: What inspired you to start the business?
J: When I was little I loved playing store and often ran garage sales for my mom. I went to work at Younkers when I turned 16. Now I have eden….and I still feel like the little girl playing store.
At age 16, I continued to play shop girl working at the local Younkers in Bettendorf, Iowa. I worked in the stores all through high school and college. Following college I moved to Des Moines to work in the buying office, where I would meet my future husband, John, who worked in the advertising department. That job went away when in late 2002 Younkers merged with Saks, Inc. I was devastated at first, but quickly it dawned on me the push out the door was exactly what I needed.
When I was in the stores, I always wanted to be the one to pick out what was in the stores. When I was in the buying office, I missed the social connections I’d made working in the stores. Owning my own shop was the perfect opportunity to have the best of both these worlds. I’ve never been much of a risk taker, but with John and friends and my family’s encouragement, I set out to follow my dream.
When we would travel I would seek out the local small shops and boutiques. I’ve always been a lover of fragrance, candles, and pampering products. There used to be a thing boys would do to court girls, they would search for perfect songs and then put all of those songs together on one special mix tape. (That’s by the way how my husband got me.) John says that is what eden is to him, a perfect mix tape of beautiful things.
A: How long have you been open?
J: Our first shop opened on June 6, 2003, at the corner of E. 5th and Grand Avenue. A friend called us about the space and when we went to see it, it was love at first sight. The fact that it was right next door to American Plumbing solidified my idea of a soap store. What could be more perfect? People could buy their sink, then come to us to buy their soap.
A: What is your neighborhood like?
J: The East Village is such a gem of a neighborhood for Des Moines, bursting with niche locally owned boutiques and restaurants. It continues to grow organically and is becoming this wonderful little self-sufficient community. I feel so fortunate to be a part of it all.
A: What’s a typical day for you?
J: Gosh, it’s hard to recap into a nutshell what a typical day is, because each day is a new adventure. Some days are heavy stock days, which is always fun. It’s like Christmas. The weekend always brings heavy customer traffic days. Whether it be helping find someone pick out that special gift for someone, or find that new fragrance that they want to fill their home with, I love being there to help.
A: What sets your shop apart?
J: Our shop didn’t happen over night. We’ve grown very organically over the years and there’s a story behind most of the pieces in the shop, which people seem to appreciate. I love it when I see people bringing in new people and overhear them explaining to their friend about our shop and all the little special elements…the chandelier and our check out counter from the Younkers tearoom. It makes me feel that we’re making an impact and that feels good.
A: What are your current three favorite items that you are selling?
J: Kiehl’s is always a favorite at eden, as we are the only store in Iowa that carries it. Their new aromatic blends collection with fragrances like orange flower & lychee, fig leaf & sage, and vanilla & cedarwood is amazing! While we do carry a lot of import products, we are thrilled to carry an assortment of handmade goods from local artists, including baby headbands from Christine Hilbert of Bean & The Sprout. Last but not least, the newest addition to our assortment, Deborah Lippmann nail polish, has been flying off the shelves.
A: What’s the best part of running your store?
J: The customers. They are urban and discerning. I always wanted a shop that appealed to both men and women, not just in our product lines, but in the overall feel — so, from the music we play to the mid-century modern furniture we have for displays, we lovingly agonize over all the details.
A: What’s up next?
J: I’m going to my first buying trip abroad (to London!) this fall.
And now for fun, please fill in the blanks:
I can’t live without my: iPhone. How else would I Instagram?
Every day I look forward to: what the UPS man is bringing me.
If I wasn’t running my shop, I’d be: dreaming about someday owning my own shop.
For dinner last night I had: Jack’s Original Frozen Pizza from the frozen case at Dahl’s on Ingersoll (a staple at our house).
If you are a shop owner and would like to share your story, or if you have a favorite local shop that you’d like to learn more about, email me at amy [at] goodsmiths [dot] com and we’ll share the story!