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Art Terrarium: A permanent pop up

What started as a pop up art and plant shop in the Des Moines skywalks became a permanent retail space that opened earlier this year.

Andrea Metzler had moved back to Des Moines and would walk through the skywalk system in downtown Des Moines all the time.

“It was just pretty sad in there and kind of empty,” Metzler says. “So I just had the idea to fill it up.”

During art week in 2016 Metzler opened a pop up shop filled with art and plants. Because it went over really well, she was wanting to do it again.

Then a space opened up at 106 11th St. in downtown Des Moines and what was a pop up shop became Art Terrarium.

“When we did the pop up, we were in this retail space that was in one of the skywalks and it was glass all the way around,” Metzler explains. “So when we filled it with plants it was like an art terrarium, so we just kind of stuck with it and couldn’t come up with a better name.

“We decided to make it a real full-time job.”

Art Terrarium opened on May 30, 2017.

The inside of Art Terrarium, a new art and plant shop in downtown Des Moines.

Where did the idea come from?

She saw shops similar to Art Terrarium in Portland and Chicago and wanted to bring the concept to Des Moines.

“Every time I walked into one of those shops, I just thought ‘ahhh, this is amazing,'” Metzler says laughing. “So I wanted to recreate that experience here in Des Moines.”

Art Terrarium specializes in easy to care for house plants for apartments or offices that don’t get a lot of sunlight. It also offers handmade pottery and a potting bar, where customers can bring their own pots and get fresh soil, or use supplies at Art Terrarium to make their own.

Prices can range from $20-$40 dollars for plants and as high as $150.

“We’ve had people bring in planters and pots that they have at home so they could refresh it or just put a new plant in,” Metzler says. “Instead of buying a big bag of soil and dealing with that mess, you can use our soil and we just do a small soil charge depending on the size of the pot.”

Art Terrarium
Art Terrarium offers customers art work from local artists along with easy to care for plants.

How does art fit into Art Terrarium?

Art Terrarium combines art and plants, a combination Metzler says can turn a house into a home.

“They compliment each other really well,” Metzler says. “When I move into a new place and want to make it my own, the first thing I do is hang art and fill it with plants.”

Art prices are set by the artists, Metzler says, but range from $20-$40 for print pieces and $100-$200 for larger works of art.

Marketing efforts coming soon

Metzler understood that starting her own business wasn’t going to be easy and with her lack of retail experience, she had a big learning curve.

“The biggest thing was learning all the processes that go into retail,” she says.

To help market Art Terrarium, Metzler said they’ve offered healthy house plant workshops, partnered with different neighborhood groups and utilize social media.

“Instagram is the biggest marketing tool so far,” Metzler says. “Most of the people who come in here say they have been following us on Instagram and wanted to come check it out.”

She said the postal service offers a direct mail program to target area codes and send them information.

“We are targeting those who live downtown because there really isn’t another plant shop downtown,” Metzler says. “And we are working on our website to do more e-commerce and local delivery. So hopefully we have that up in a month or two so you can order and we can deliver it as a gift or drop it off at your apartment.”

Art Terrarium: A permanent pop up | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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