Exploring downtown areas is one of my favorite things to do in a small town. This past fall, while we were on the Franklin County, Iowa, Harvest Tour, we had an opportunity to check out downtown Hampton, the Franklin County seat. Hampton’s town square, anchored by a stately old courthouse, is surrounded by small, independent shops and cafes, where you are often greeted by the shop owners themselves.
We started with breakfast at Rustic Brew, an appropriate name since they brew both coffee and beer. Owners Joel and Kathy Heuer served up an assortment of breakfast sandwiches, quiches and scones and chatted a bit about their business.
Kathy had wanted to go into a retail business for quite some time. When they heard the Rustic Brew, a coffee shop they frequented, was up for sale a couple of years ago, they bought it in partnership with another couple. The Heuers are now the sole owners.
Joel, who likes to dabble with home beer brewing, expanded on his hobby and started brewing beer in the shop. He told us, “It’s like a glorified home brew setup, not very big.” According to Joel, it takes about ten hours of labor to make 30 gallons of beer, but the small system allows him to adjust ingredients, adding this or that to try new flavors, without much trouble.
After breakfast Skip revisited Rustic Brew with some of the other husbands to try the beer while I walked down the street to check out the gems at Christensen Jewelry. I talked with the owner, Russ Gibson, who is only one of only eight registered Certified Swiss Watch Makers in the United States.
Russ was in a watch making and jewelry program in a Texas college when he received a scholarship offer out of the blue from a watchmaking school in Neuchatel, Switzerland. Only twelve students were enrolled in the 18-month program, and just eight made it all the way through.
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At one time Russ worked for up to 27 jewelers around the country repairing watches, including one watch valued at $400,000. Today, besides selling ready-made jewelry and upscale giftware, he does a lot of jewelry repair and makes custom jewelry. He had just finished one of his more unusual commissions before my visit, a bolo tie with a meteorite amethyst set in it.
The Cornerstone Cottage sells a big mix of items, everything from bath salts to toys. What a fun shop to browse!
I asked owner Judy Wrolson what the hottest selling item was, and she pointed out adult coloring books. Huh? I didn’t know then that adult coloring was even a thing, but it has boomed in popularity in the United States in 2015. In fact, Judy often hosts coloring sessions, sometimes held at the Rustic Brew, where people (mostly women) gather together for an evening of coloring and visiting. “It’s a stress relief,” Judy told me.
Cornerstone Cottage carries all of the supplies needed for adult coloring: books, which often contain detailed symmetrical patterns, colored pencils and markers. She also pointed out books created by local artist Mariea Plendl, who specializes in fairies.
While I would have loved to have visited more of downtown Hampton shops, it was time to move on to our next stop on the Franklin County Harvest Tour. I’ve noted Hampton on my list of places to return to, so I can continue my browsing.
Visiting Downtown Hampton
Hampton is located in north central Iowa, about 30 miles south of Mason City. Check the Greater Franklin County Chamber of Commerce web site for more information on downtown Hampton shops and to download the visitor’s guide.
Accommodations during our stay was at the AmericInn in Hampton, Iowa. Find the best hotel room deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.
Disclosure: The Franklin County Harvest Tour, including the visit to downtown Hampton, was hosted by the Franklin County Farm Bureau, the Greater Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and the Franklin County Historical Society. However, any opinions expressed in this post are my own.
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