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It’s rare to be able to shop at What A Gem.

Also rare? The items for sale.

The pop-up shop on 3rd Street in downtown Davenport has only been open six times since its first day in business, on May 18.

And that’s how owner Sarah Collins wants it.

“Everything is one-of-a-kind,” she said. “I don’t have duplicates of many things, so if you don’t grab it one day, there might not be another one.”

Collins, an interior designer at Elements Home Furnishing and Interior Design, in Bettendorf, counts What A Gem, which is open on Thursdays, as a “passion project.”

“With me picking out everything, there’s a lot of my own style in it,” she said. “I’m trying to spark an interest.”

She's also passionate about bringing people to downtown Davenport. Her boutique's hours tie into the monthly Third Thursdays, an initiative sponsored by the Downtown Davenport Partnership. 

"Hopefully it builds an awareness for people — they know if it’s Thursday, they got to get down here," she said. 

Prior to opening What A Gem, Collins, 28, who also helps out at her family’s nearby bar and restaurant, Me & Bill, had been eyeing the 300-square-foot space, 218 W. 3rd St., Davenport, for a few months.

“We just kept seeing it sit empty and it’s such a specific little unique space,” Collins said. “We’ve seen this block develop and almost every space had been taken up except for this one.”

Her older sister, Fran Maus, stepped in. “She looked at me one day,” Collins said, “and was like, ‘Why don’t you open a pop-up shop?’”

“Sarah has such an eye for old and new,” Maus said. “We all have been envious of how she does it. When we knew this little space was open, we thought it would be perfect.”

Collins started construction in March on the property, which previously served as a front office and entrance for apartments. She’s renting the spot, which she said is tied into Me & Billy’s lease.

“This is 100 percent on my own,” she said. “My parents have been entrepreneurs ever since I was a kid, so the idea of small business is something I grew up with.”

Along with her full-time job and helping out at Me & Billy, which she calls What A Gem’s “big brother,” Collins spends her time hunting for unique pieces.

“There’s nothing better than the thrill of going to a flea market or estate sale and finding that really cool piece that you don’t see everyday,” she said. “Some people don’t like going to those sort of places, so that kind of puts me as the middleman.”

Sandwiched between Infinity Salon & Spa and Rick Jennisch Photography, What A Gem offers home decor, glassware, prints, jewelry and greeting cards. There are also framed sketches by Moline-native Paul Norton and candles from Southern Firefly, a company based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

“I have this love of vintage, but I’m also thinking of new ways to look at vintage,” she said. “I’m a big believer in if it makes you happy and you get it home and it makes you smile, that’s a good purchase.”


Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).