10 Reasons to Visit Downtown Nevada, Iowa
To assume Nevada, Iowa is “just another small town” is a big mistake. I’ll admit it … it’s one I’ve made. My eyes were opened to its charm and character when I saw a Facebook post from one of my favorite stores in Ames, announcing the opening of a new doughnut shop in Nevada. Now, a couple years (and soooo many doughnuts) later, I have discovered many more hidden treasures worth sharing!
Nevada (pronounced “Nev-ay-da” not “Nev-ah-da” like the state) is just 10 miles east of Ames, Iowa. For the purposes of this post I am focussing my foodventure on the downtown area. Here are 10 reasons you should discover why “Your Story Starts Here!”.
1. The Best Doughnuts
Do you know why I feel comfortable making that statement? Because my husband thinks so too and he’s a doughnut connoisseur! Seriously, though … the owners of Bricktown Bakery, Mike and Paula, have made it their mission to make quality and hospitality top priority. Walking into this bakery is equal parts nostalgia, comfort, and respite.
From the old sign forbidding the playing of cards (while decks of cards and other games beg you to start a game), to the smell of brewed coffee, to the glass display of an incredible variety of freshly made doughnuts (that makes you feel like a kid in a candy store), this bakery is more than a quick stop on your list. Do yourself a big favor and block off an hour of time to SAVOR this place. Get your doughnuts and coffee, talk to the employees, watch the customers (especially the kids) who come and go, play a game of cards, and be prepared to make friends!
And may I personally recommend the twist … the glaze is amazing, the cinnamon-sugar layer is delicious, but it’s the texture of the twist itself that is remarkable. You know when you unroll a cinnamon roll and then break off a piece, a really good one will stretch and pull apart rather than breaking apart easily? That’s what you get with the Bricktown twist.
And yes, I’ve gotten carried away … but surely you know that about me by now.
2. Popcorn and Candy
Ready to walk off that (or those) doughnut(s)? Take an easy stroll next door to Bricktown Popcorn, the sister store to Bricktown Bakery. Get ready to stock your pantry with small-batch, hand-crafted popcorn in a wide variety of fun flavors like Jalapeño Popper, Garlic Parmesan, Creamy Dill, and Double Cheese. Look for seasonal favorites like Butter Beer and Caramel Apple in the fall, and Candy Cane, Gingerbread, and Churro flavors for Christmas. Grab a couple extra bags for hostess gifts and road trips!
As if there weren’t enough choices on the popcorn shelves, Paula discovered that one of her employees had a real gift for candy making and immediately put her to work adding another layer to the business: handmade truffles, caramels, toffee, and fudge!
For more background on the Feltner’s and their endeavors, check out this article in the Ames Tribune.
3. Antiques And Vintage Items
Continue down the street and look for Sixth Street Salvage, tucked in behind Salon 1120 hair salon. This little shop has vintage and antique finds lining the hallway, tucked into an extra room, and overflowing into the back room. I mean who thinks to hang an antique chandelier in the back “storage” room? Julie does!
And, no, the chandelier is not for sale … I asked.
Gypsy’s Alley Antiques
Another tucked away shop to browse is Gypsy’s Alley Antiques which can be found in the entryway to the floral shop, Flower Bed, on K Ave. Because of the small space, the displays change frequently so each visit brings something new! My personal infatuation with Frankoma pottery has me checking in on this shop regularly!
4. Beautifully Restored Buildings
This small town is blessed to have residents and business owners who are on a mission to preserve and protect its historic buildings whenever possible. This Camelot theater is currently undergoing restoration of the facade and marquee. Interior restoration and renovations will be following thanks to a local nonprofit (the Camelot Theater Foundation) which wants to create a space for movies, live performances, business trainings, and special events in the community. The May 2022 edition of the Our Nevada Iowa publication described the interior of the theater as an “atmospheric movie palace with a ceiling of twinkling starlights and the impression that you were sitting in an outdoor courtyard”.
I cannot wait to see the end result (hint: there’s a rendering of the facade in the link above).
As you roam the town, make sure you ask the store owners and employees questions. They love to share what they know about the history of their buildings. At Bricktown Popcorn, I learned the base of one of their display cabinets was found in the basement of the building. These little details make the customer’s experience all the more authentic.
5. Coffee and Lunch
Need another break? Maybe a latte or some lunch? Farm Grounds Coffee Shop has delicious breakfast burritos and sandwiches, soups, salads, and sandwiches for lunch, and baked goods for any time of day.
A cozy mix of retro cafe and farmhouse comfort, this is a great place to unwind and refresh!
6. A Space To Get Work Done
You’d never guess that behind this shiny copper-sided door is an expanse of modern rentable spaces. Whether you need a quiet and comfortable place to work for a day or a space to host a business meeting or gather for a special occasion, Copper Spaces is a special place.
Located on the second floor of the building, it is evident that the owners put great effort into making these spaces inviting, comfortable, and well-equipped for remote working.
7. A Place to Celebrate
On the ground floor of the same building as Copper Space is the event venue, Gatherings. With beautifully exposed brick walls, strands of patio lights, vintage chandeliers, a charming bar, outdoor patio, tablesettings, and catering options, the foundation for a special event is well covered. The photos of different events show how this space also becomes unique based on the finishing touches provided by the hosts. To see for yourself, check out their Instagram page (@gatheringsvenuenevada).
8. Nevada Nice
Meet Paula and Evie … two of Nevada’s superstars. And by superstars I mean super friendly, super hard working, super motivated, and super creative. Paula and her husband, Mike, own Bricktown Bakery, Bricktown Popcorn, and their original business, a photography studio (Thisday Photography). Evie and her husband, Seth, are the owners of Farm Grounds Coffee, Copper Spaces, Gatherings, an Airbnb on their farm, and #9 on this list, Cozy Home & Table. These couples are so devoted to preserving the history of the town and the sense of community that makes any small town a great place to live.
Employees of these businesses are trained not only in the services provided, but also for the opportunity to form a relationship with the customers and treat them as friends, neighbors, and family. The sign above is positioned behind the counter at Bricktown Bakery where the employees can be reminded that they do have an impact on people’s lives. Their priority is not to sell. Their priority is to make customers feel invited into a space where they can relax, enjoy, savor and know that they are cherished.
9. Boutique Shopping
A trip to Nevada is not complete without browsing the lovely boutique, Cozy Home & Table. Filled with beautiful, yet practical, decor pieces for your home and kitchen, this shop has “items old and new to make your house a home”. There is always a festive seasonal vibe balanced with everyday comfort. Whether you are browsing for something new for your home or a gift for someone else’s table, unique options are waiting for you here.
10. Dinner Plans
After a day of chatting with the owners, employees, and customers around town, browsing the shops, and studying the character of the downtown buildings, who wants to go home and cook?
Farm Ground Coffee has you covered … as in a covered dish! In their refrigerated cases are take-and-bake casseroles, as well as soups, salads, and sandwiches. The options change weekly and are posted on their Facebook page. Personally, I think the Tex-Mex Mac and Cheese sounds pretty tasty about now!
11. Don’t Forget The Flowers
Yes, I said ten reasons and I’m listing eleven. I cannot in good conscience bring you to downtown Nevada and then NOT tell you about a very special place just south of town. The Vinery Flowers is a mother-daughter owned flower farm. Amy and Robin have created a flower oasis on their family farm that is as charming a spot as I’ve ever found. Having had childhood dreams of becoming a florist, visiting their farm is always a special day. Along with the skills to grow a wide variety of flowers and creating arrangements for any special occasion (today is a special occasion by the way), these two have the entrepreneurial spirit to create experiences for customers.
They recently transformed a garage into their flower shop, brining their personal flair to the design. The shop includes a Flower Bar where you can pick and choose your flowers and create your own arrangement. They also offer farm fresh produce (seasonally) and a wide variety of classes. Following their Instagram and Facebook accounts not only show you how talented they are, but you will also benefit from growing, arranging, and drying tips and tricks.
Make sure you check their business hours before making the trip. As would be expected in Iowa, the classes and options vary throughout the year.
“Where Your Story Begins”
If you look back at the first photo in this post, the sign that welcomes you to Nevada says: Where Your Story Begins. The word “Story” is a nod to the fact that Nevada is located in, and is the county seat of, Story County. I’d like it very much if this post inspires you to visit this town and serves as the beginning of your story, your foodventure. There is much more to be found here so explore beyond the downtown. Ask the people you encounter what else you should see while in town. Ask them where they like to eat, shop, walk, play. The ending to your story is completely unique!
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