Writer: Christine Riccelli
Photographer: Nikole Lorenson – Studio Preservation
“Being better than my peers, making a lot of money and winning awards.” That’s how Lindsey Mollenhaur says she used to define success. “It was all so self-serving.”
Recently, though, success has come to mean something entirely different. “I’ve redefined it to mean the value I add to the community,” says the 32-year-old hairstylist.
Her current venture is evidence of her commitment to that definition. Mollenhaur transformed a 5,165-square-foot warehouse at 11th and Cherry streets into what she predicts will be an “energetic and synergistic space for creative commerce.”
The newly dubbed “elevencherry,” which opened May 1, includes Art Terrarium, a retail shop selling artwork, plants and terrariums, owned by Andrea Metzler, Shylah Statler and Levi Biel; Studio Preservation, owned by photographer Nikole Lorenson (she also owns Preservation in the East Village); the office of Now Now, a web design firm owned by John and Lucy Solarz; and a studio for artist Firat Erdim. In addition, the building houses Mollenhauer’s salon as well as Details, a business she operates with makeup artist Ivy Boyd that offers special-event styling and makeup.
Looking for a nontraditional space, Mollenenhaur first moved her salon into the building about three years ago. The opportunity to repurpose the space emerged last December when the primary occupant, Renovation Home, closed.
Taking on the risk “took a leap of faith,” she says. “I never intended to be an entrepreneur, but now I know I am one.”
A “constant need to explore all possibilities to make things better” and a desire “to be surrounded by artistic people” drove her vision, says Mollenhauer, who grew up in eastern Iowa and Ankeny. “I love being around people who use their creative talents to make their living.”
The building’s open floor plan encourages interaction; there are no hallways, and a south-facing glass garage door that Mollenhauer had installed highlights the inviting common area. “It takes trust in your neighbors” to work in this kind of space, she says, and trust helps foster inspiration and ultimately more business.
Mollenhauer says she thought finding subtenants would be the most difficult part of the project, but it turned out to be the easiest: “I started putting feelers out there and quickly had more interest than I had space for.”
The new occupants of elevencherry share Mollenhaurer’s vision and enthusiasm for a creative workspace. “We’re stoked,” says John Solarz. “The space fits everything we had on our wish list,” including a central downtown location that’s still slightly off the beaten path, affordability, flexibility, an ability to accommodate casual foot traffic, and a collaborative community.
“We’ve known Lindsey for a long time, and when we heard what she was doing here, our ears perked up,” Solarz says. “She has a knack of identifying something that’s not overdone, laying down a good foundation, and letting the rest take care of itself.”
Solarz believes that the surrounding neighborhood “could be stimulated by this kind of concept—an experimental space that allows people to test out their ideas and businesses in an affordable way.”
Mollenhauer says the project reflects Des Moines’ cultural momentum. “It used to be that you had to live in a big city if you wanted to work in proximity to other creatives,” she says. “But that’s not the case any longer. Smaller ponds like Des Moines—that’s where it’s happening these days.”