The phrase “It runs in the family” typically refers to things such as eye color, height, a sense of humor or a talent.
But what runs in the Amborn family is a bit more retail. They have a knack for the gift business.
“My parents had a gift shop here and in Fort Madison,” said Catherine Roach of Cedar Rapids. “I had one sister with a gift shop in southern Illinois.”
Now Roach and her two grown daughters — Shannon Amborn and Maggie Vineburgh — are continuing the family tradition with Laurel, a gift shop on the northeast end of Cedar Rapids that features a blend of home decor, vintage finds and unique and obscure knickknacks.
“The neighborhood has been so supportive of us,” Roach said.
In fact, after opening in April with about 800 square feet of retail space, Laurel is expanding its footprint — and its staff — by spreading out into a neighboring site. Roach said she expects to have another 950 square feet to work with when the business holds a four-day open house this weekend.
“We are in the throes right now of doubling our size,” she said.
In addition to Roach, Amborn and Vineburgh, Laurel has two full-time employees and several part-time seasonal workers.
“I think in this economic time, this is a real asset to the community,” Roach said.
Gaslight Alley, a similar style gift shop that Roach’s parents ran on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids from 1981 to 1994, inspired Laurel, which officially opened April 2.
Roach said she and her daughters are committed to carrying on the tradition her parents started with Gaslight Alley decades ago. A Henry Miller quote captures the store’s mission: “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
“We want people to look at what they have and what’s being handed down to them and incorporate that into their home and complement it with something we could show them so that their home tells their story,” Roach said.
Owner: Catherine Roach
Address: 7037 C Ave. NE, Suite 300, Cedar Rapids
Website: www. discoverlaurel.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday; closed Sunday
What’s next: An open house is scheduled for this coming Thursday to Sunday.