WEST LIBERTY, Iowa–In 2017, Lisa Browning and her husband purchased a building in West Liberty planning to remodel it and rent out its apartments and storefront. As they worked on the property, Lisa Browning realized she had other plans for it: “I had helped at my cousins’ antique shop in West Branch for a few years and really enjoyed it. I love to shop and decorate, so I thought I would try opening my own boutique.”
From this dream, Browning created Shop 121. “I chose the name Shop 121 because it’s our address, and it doesn’t specify exactly what we sell, which allows for growth and variety,” she recalls. Since first opening, Browning has assembled a delightful assortment of items for customers to peruse, including women’s clothing and jewelry, handbags, home decorations, antiques, school spirit items, stationary, and gifts.
Of all her wares, Browning takes the most pride in the local and women made products that she sells. “Many things are made by women, some local, as one of my mission statements is to help empower other women,” she shared, adding, “currently, my school apparel, candles, some jewelry, dog bandanas, wooden signs, makeup bags, greeting cards, masks, and lanyards are all made by local women.”
For Browning, operating a true family business makes running Shop 121 special for her: “My husband was very instrumental in the remodeling and continues to help with day to day operations. Our adult son loves to use his creativity to help me redo the shop seasonally. We really enjoy being part of the community and offering a unique shopping experience,” Browning elaborated.
Shop 121 will celebrate its second birthday Nov. 6 and 7. Browning invites the community to take advantage of specials, giveaways, and small treats each day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Though Browning originally started her working career as a teacher, Shop 121 does not represent her first foray into owning a small business. In November of 2014, the Brownings purchased an abandoned house they converted into a four bedroom, two bathroom guest house, complete with gathering spaces and wireless internet.
Inspired by retreat houses Browning had visited for crafting weekends, she knew West Liberty could benefit from one. With no local hotels, many travelers enjoy staying in its homey atmosphere whether on a business trip or attending a family gathering. She encourages anyone interested in booking it to check their Facebook page or listing on Airbnb.