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Popping Up Shop in CR

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- Two new storefronts are opening their doors in downtown Cedar Rapids this week -- just in time for holiday shoppers.

These Pop Up Shops are part of a new program from the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, in an effort to fill out the more than 600,000 empty square feet of retail and business space in the downtown area.

The program gives businesses two months of rent and utility-free space, thanks to the property owners at each location.

For Craft partner Erin Connolly, helping to fill out downtown shopping during the holidays is like going back to her childhood.

"Remembering going to Armstrong's, and I just -- it was so beautifully decorated, and that's where Santa was. If you went to the Killian's department store, they had a talking Christmas tree that is forever etched in my mind, and coming downtown was truly an experience," Connolly said.

That's why she and her two business partners, Catherine Champion and Jodi Connolly, decided to start Craft -- a local artisan boutique and gallery.

Erin Connolly grew up in her parents' business downtown, and she wants to bring back some the magic she knows the city has.

"I think shopping downtown is kind of a lost art," she said.

Her partners own Buzz Salon, Catherine's Boutique and Bluebird Diner in Iowa City, and wanted to test the market in Cedar Rapids. Sarika Bhakta with the Metro Economic Alliance said, that's why they started the program.

"Hopefully it will continue to make us a destination for retail, but not only that. Retails also goes hand-in-hand with housing, which is another core, key area for the greater downtown," Bhakta said.

More downtown residents means more customers for Dulcet Style owner Tracy Gringer. She's also expanding from Coralville to Cedar Rapids -- and said two months without rent is just enough time to see if the City of Five Seasons is her second home.

"I think there's just so much opportunity and a lot of potential business for us here, so I would love to be a part of this community for a very long time," Gringer said.

Find out more about Dulcet at and Craft on Facebook.
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