Indianola forms new downtown merchants group to strengthen business area

Teresa Kay Albertson
Des Moines Register

Indianola Square businesses are banding together and have formed the Indianola Downtown Merchants marketing and events group to promote the area and help build the area.

"We are now an official nonprofit organization," Indianola Downtown Merchants President Brandy Werner said. "We are really focused on creating a vibrant shopping and dining district for both local and non-local patrons."

Werner owns Willow Moon Apothecary on Ashland Avenue on the Square.

Brandy Werner, owner of Willow Moon Apothecary in Indianola, is the president of the Indianola Downtown Merchants association. June, 2022.

The group formed in August 2021 amid the hectic streetscape and Warren County Justice Center construction. Although most of the businesses involved with the group are located near the Square, some are not.

"We are really a very inclusive group. Todd's Shoes for Women out on 2nd Avenue is a member," Werner said. 

The Indianola Downtown Merchants group has been a non-dues paying entity with participants tossing in a few bucks to collaborate for special events.

"We put in $10 or $20 to help with marketing costs," Werner said.

The group has hosted events including the Ridiculous Days event June 25 that included a pet parade, cake walk and jumbo outdoor games.

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Shortly after this groundbreaking ceremony June 14, 2021 for the Indianola Square streetscape project, downtown businesses banded together to form the Indianola Downtown Merchants association to promote and strengthen the historic business area.

However, as the collaboration has continued, Werner said the merchants are building a plan to consider a membership-based format. She thinks by the end of the year the group will have formalized its membership structure. They are considering an annual membership dues structure or whether to continue with a event-based membership structure.

Events hosted by the Indianola Downtown Merchants for 2022 are still coming together with details. But Werner said the basic outline of events are established. They include:

  • July 21: National Balloon Classic fly-over with a parade (weather permitting). Werner said the event is expected to be held in the evening.
  • Sept. 9: Traveling RV event will stop in Indianola the evening before the Iowa vs. Iowa State football game held in Iowa City this year. Businesses will stay open late and the downtown area will host festive tailgating activities.
  • Oct. 28: Wine, Witches and Brews. Last year more than 900 tickets were sold for this event. The first 500 tickets sold in the first three days. Werner said she is expecting that the first 500 ticket purchases will come with a free gift. Tickets will go on sale early in September.
  • Nov. 25: Others know this day as Black Friday. But Indianola Downtown Merchants are celebrating Plaid Friday. Visitors wearing plaid will receive discounts and special gifts.
  • Nov. 26: Small Business Saturday
  • Dec. 10: Holiday season celebrations

Werner said the focus of the merchants' efforts is to build a strong, thriving downtown. She said that they are well on their way to reaching that goal.

"In the past 18 months we had a lot of new businesses come into the area. It's been fantastic to see. We are just so excited to bring some new offerings to the town and look forward to being a part of a strong community." Werner said.

Teresa Kay Albertson covers Des Moines' southern suburbs for the Register and the Indianola Record-Herald. Reach her at or 515-419-6098.