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Shoppers flock to LeClaire for holiday gifts
(Nick Loomis/ON THE RIVER) Tina and Roger Johnson of LeClaire, Iowa, buy a wooden mixing bowl for their daughter from Deb Willaredt, right, at Artswork during the Christmas in LeClaire event. The windows of the store on Cody Street overlook the Mississippi River.

Jan Luze is not a mall shopper. Given that fact, it was only natural that the Bettendorf resident and her husband, Syl, spent the busiest buying day of the year strolling Cody Road in LeClaire, Iowa.

“I just love LeClaire,” Luze said. “I like the uniqueness of the little shops.”

But the river town northeast of the Quad-Cities isn’t bustling only on the day after Thanksgiving. Rather, it has become a year-round mecca for shoppers seeking one-of-a-kind items. Visitors to LeClaire can drop into specialty gift shops, home-décor boutiques and antiques stores, all while enjoying views of the  Mississippi River while they shop and on the drive to get there.

Kelli Markle, owner of Home Sweet Home, a shop filled with traditional and artistic home and holiday décor, said LeClaire attracts shoppers not only with unique merchandise, but also with customer service.

“It’s a little more of a friendly, homey atmosphere,” she said. “We can do the added little personals.”

Markle’s husband, Terry, who co-owns the store, said LeClaire’s shopping district is popular with visitors who enjoy traveling along river roads. Many people get out of their cars to shop and enjoy the town’s charm, he said.

LeClaire offers plenty of places for shoppers to refuel. Coffee houses, sandwich shops and a few full restaurants dot the retail avenue.

Michael Hall, owner of Dwellings, a purveyor of modern holiday décor and housewares, said the river also is a draw for shoppers. Many stores that lie on the southern side of Cody Road have windows or balconies that look out toward the river.

“Especially the new stores have such good views,” he said.

Large wooden decks overlooking the river are features of new retailers such as Posh Home, which offers sleek and elegant home furnishings and whimsical children’s items; Artswork, specializing in colorful and creative art for the body and home; and the divine-smelling Razzleberries, which sells specialty gift items including candles, handbags and jewelry.

Across the street, Grasshoppers is a historic mansion filled with wine, gifts and items for the home and garden. Perched atop a hill, many of its windows open to the river.

Sandra Bowden, director of Guardian Family Care and former director of tourism and economic development at the LeClaire Chamber of Commerce, said the town’s retail district has been growing for the past seven years.

Annual events such as Christmas in LeClaire and Tug Fest have drawn attention to the town, as has an “exploding” housing market, Bowden said.

But Bowden said the river is one of the biggest attractions. The Mississippi is part of the area’s history, and people like to tap into that by exploring its towns, she added.

“People like small towns on the river, they just do,” she said.

Katie Vaughn can be contacted at (563) 383-2282 or kvaughn@qctimes.com.

OTHER SPOTS

LeClaire is not the only town in the Quad-City area to offer holiday shopping with a river view.

In the Village of East Davenport, shoppers will find art and antiques galleries, wine shops, an Isabel Bloom outpost, candy stores such as Lagomarcino’s and Meme’s Old Fashioned Candy, and The Soap Box, which sells soaps and bath products.

Moline’s River Drive is home to Centre Station Gifts, the John Deere Store and WaterMark Corners gift shop, another Isabel Bloom store and Gendler’s Wine & Spirits, as well as the opportunity to stop to pick up tickets to the range of events at The Mark of the Quad-Cities.

The District of Rock Island offers art galleries such as MidCoast West Gallery and the Left Bank Art League, as well as a cigar shop at Copia Martini & Wine Bar.

Muscatine’s 2nd Street — including the Pearl Plaza development — features art and antiques, in addition to books, candles, crafts and gifts.

The Mississippi River Visitor Center on Arsenal Island has gifts available for the river lover.

Here are a few ideas:

n A camping gift certificate

n Lock and dam mug  showing the Government Bridge

n Lock and dam T-shirt

n Eagle watching long-sleeved or short-sleeved T-shirts

n Mississippi River books

n The Upper Mississippi River chart

The visitor center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For more information, call (309) 794-5338.

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