Retail Referral Program

The Iowa City Downtown District’s ILoveIC Retail Referral Program is an initiative aimed to reward community members for engaging directly with experienced independent retail stores that they would like to see in Iowa City. The referral program is intended to invite those that are passionate about downtown Iowa City to reach out to stores they believe would complement and strengthen the downtown Iowa City retail cluster.  This non-traditional approach to recruitment is intended to inspire economic development at the grass-roots level.

The program provides community members with a $500 referral reward for any referral that results in a newly signed lease within the Downtown District, a $1,000 referral reward for men’s ware resulting in a signed lease, or a $20 gift card incentive for any referral that results in a new-to-Iowa City store owner connection with ICDD staff.  Independent stores are preferred over chains and franchises.

Have you ever thought…Wow, I love this shop, I would love it if they had a store in Iowa City? Help the Iowa City Downtown District recruit businesses that you love elsewhere! Whether it is a great retailer that is seeking its second brick-and-mortar location or a new on-line business that is seeking a great storefront, there are terrific opportunities for independent businesses to join our strong retail community.


Engage a sales associate or clerk to seek out an owner or owner representative.
Share a digital retail brochure found in the retail toolkit on this site and your passion for Iowa City.
Capture store information and contact details to share with the ICDD staff.
Fill out the information in the following referral form and submit it.

We (Iowa City Downtown District)… 
Follow up by sending the loved store an Iowa City Downtown District retail kit.
Continue the relationship with you and the recruited owner or we carry it forward independently (we will connect with you about it).
Reward you with a $500-$1,000 check for your referral if the store signs a lease downtown and/or $20 downtown gift card for each referral that results in a response from the store owner. We will notify you!

For referral rewards, all contact information provided should originate through an in-person connection with you and should not be submitted by researching website information or making phone calls alone.

The Iowa City Downtown District has a number of programs, reports and studies that have investments to support Downtown’s retail cluster. These reports, studies and programs are assets that help provide unique elements of support to retailers. When participating in the ILoveIC Retail Referral Program, be sure to familiarize yourself with our market data, organization retail strategy, current merchandise, desired store categories, and support grants and programs.


  1. digital and print retail brochure with downtown Iowa City insights
  2. Talking points, tips, and direction for store categories sought (from the ICDD Retail Strategy )
  3. List of support services offered by the Downtown District for new retailers that include:
      1. a $15,000 build-out grant,
      2. CoSign+ projecting sign match grants up to $3,000,
      3. marketing support, and
      4. complimentary year-round retail delivery services.
      5. Connection with downtown retail mentors

    For additional information or specific data requests, please contact Nancy Bird at

Engaging independent store owners and shops can be conducted in many different ways. Shopping at their store or online business is a great way to start; a good independent will care about developing relationships with their clients. Those interested in the ILoveIC Retail Referral program should take advantage of the time during your purchase(s) to ask the clerk or sales assistant more about the independent store and its owners. Sharing your personal story and your passion for downtown Iowa City will also be critical to enticing the independent owner to listen to why they could be a great fit in another amazing community — Iowa City!

According to the Iowa City Downtown District’s latest Retail Strategy, downtown’s merchandise mix is heavy with restaurants and in need of additional merchandise of the following:

–men’s apparel,
–home decor
–shoes / accessories,
–garden shop,
–tech, travel and office,
–art supplies,
–pet & food accessories,
–bike store / repair
–beauty and make up