The Lily Lou Company gifts itself to Grinnell


Owen Barbato

Mollie O’Dell, owner of The Lily Lou Company, hopes to help Grinnell build a sense of community.

Marcy Cassidy-Mapp, Staff Writer

New local store, the Lily Lou Company, fills the gift and party shop niche at Grinnell, and owners hope to promote a sense of community and help support other small stores with their business model.

The Lily Lou Company is a gift shop located at 827 4th Avenue, Grinnell, and it had its grand opening on Dec. 21. It was initially conceived as a bridal retailer, but opted to fill the underrepresented gift and party shop category in Grinnell instead. The company carries various types of party supplies, gifts and apparel, expanding from store owner Mollie O’Dell’s previous work with balloon garlands and bouquets.

“I love the idea of a shop because I love that it’s bringing in happiness and joy into somebody’s life during a very exciting time,” said O’Dell.

O’Dell described the Lily Lou Company as a woman-owned business, since she holds majority ownership and is the face of the company. O’Dell focuses on storefront operations while her husband and co-owner, Ryan O’Dell, focuses on logistics and shipping. 

O’Dell primarily focuses her business practices on building a holistic customer experience. She attempts to improve the shopping experience by talking customers through products and engaging with them personally.

“It’s just a different branch into what we already have available [in Grinnell], and it’s beneficial because it takes us away from big box stores,” said returning customer Morgan Uhl.

“It was very big for me to promote other women, entrepreneurs, minorities, and I want to make sure that reflects in the stuff I carry here,” said O’Dell.

Building community and giving back to the community is something that’s very hardcore instilled into our values here.

— Mollie O'Dell, owner of The Lily Lou Company

Reflecting O’Dell’s commitment to supporting local entrepreneurs, the store currently sources a majority of its merchandise from other small retailers, similar to local Iowa business Doe A Deer, through the wholesale app, Faire.

“Bringing in other small entrepreneurs or other companies that can provide options really helps build community and get[s] you talking with people you normally wouldn’t,” O’Dell said.

As a way to bond with the community and potential customers during its grand opening in December, O’Dell hosted a vision board event. Patrons designed a poster or sign that depicted their goals and manifestations for the coming year. 

Seeing a desire for more community engagement as a common theme, the Lily Lou Company saw an opportunity to give back to the town of Grinnell.

The Lily Lou Company partnered with the Poweshiek Trading Post and Sharp Barbering to enter customers into a lottery for a Valentine’s Day meal at Prairie Canary after shopping at one of the partnering businesses. The ticket also offers a 10% discount to the other businesses, said Ryan O’Dell. The promotion will end on Feb. 14, and the winner of the dinner at Prairie Canary will be drawn on the Friday before Valentine’s Day, Feb. 10. 

“I have a feeling that we’ll be doing lots of them because we are very appreciative of our customers and it’s an easy way, especially when we work together, to give something of value,” said O’Dell.