Retail is all but dead downtown, but the nearby East Village neighborhood boasts a small but browsible enclave of independently owned shops. Museum-like Gong Fu Tea (414 E. 6th St., www.gong fu-tea.com) features a gorgeous array of teapots plus an enormous collection of teas for brewing at home or enjoying in the shop. Projects Contemporary Furniture (501 E. Locust St., 515-557-1833, www.projectsfurniture.com) is all about sleek European imports. Its gifts/jewelry/home accessories inventory makes Sticks (521 E. Locust St., 515-282-0844, www.sticks.com) a year-round art fair. Cooks will find both needs and wants at the well stocked Kitchen Collage (430 E. Locust St., 515-270-8202, www.mykitchencollage. com), and shabby-chic Eden (500 E. Grand Av., 515-282-0669, www.edeniowa.com) carries a bevy of first-class bath products.
Three non-East Village finds: West End Architectural Salvage (22 S.W. 9th St., 515-243-0499, www.westendarch salvage.com) boasts four floors of neatly organized treasures, plus a funky coffee shop. An early-season snow dampened but didn't break the Des Moines Farmers Market (www.desmoinesfarmers market.com), a superb Saturday morning (May-October) collection of 200 Iowa-only vendors. Pick up Iowa-made wines and cheeses at upscale grocer Gateway Market (2002 Woodland Av., 515-243-1754, www.gatewaymarket.com), which also features a stylish quick-service cafe run by Django chef George Formaro.
WHERE TO STAY
Our quiet and comfortable room at the historic Renaissance Savery Hotel (401 Locust St., 515-244-2151, www.marriott.com) was $129 per night. The hotel, nicely renovated, was within walking distance of many attractions. For other lodging options, contact the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, 515-286-4960, www.seedesmoines.com.