A new business on Ames’ Main Street hopes to help the community live more sustainably by providing plastic-free, reusable and eco-friendly products for everyday use.
ZW Mercantile, a locally-owned and operated business “striving to help beginners and experts alike transition to and maintain as close to a zero waste lifestyle as possible,” will be located at 219 Main St., in Ames, in the building that formerly housed Hoshaw Fine Violins and is currently occupied by the campaign office for Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang.
Mindy Bergstrom, the store’s owner, said planning for the space is still in its early stages, but she is hopeful the store will be ready to officially open on Earth Day, which is on Monday, April 22, this year.
“We need to change our individual behavior and begin to ban single-use plastics, and find alternative products for everyday that are reusable,” Bergstrom said. “I look at my nieces and nephews, and I just think about how we’re damaging the Earth and just saying, ‘now you guys get to take it over.’ I’m hoping we can actually leave it in a better place than it was before us.”
Bergstrom, who also owns two other downtown Ames stores — Cooks’ Emporium, at 313 Main St., and Nook and Nest, at 309 Main St. — said the idea for the business came from seeing how much waste was created every time she received a new shipment.
“When we receive inventory for both of the stores, every single gadget comes in its own plastic, bundled in more plastic, and then within the box with more plastic. I’m almost kind of disgusted in how much everything is packaged in plastic,” she said. “We get in so many packages, and how we receive our product makes me believe there is something I can do to help.”
She has also seen a trend, she said, that points toward the increasing popularity of sustainable products, and “it just made the most sense.”
ZW Merchantile, which stands for zero waste and is modeled after an “old-school general store,” will have products ranging from feminine hygiene and toiletries to food storage and cookware. She plans to also sell certain items in bulk, such as laundry detergent, with a “take a jar, leave a jar” model.
“We’re so excited about having these products that I never really even thought about, but they make so much sense. Bringing your own containers when you go out to eat, to put your leftovers in rather than using Styrofoam. Using reusable (cotton swabs) made with silicon, that you can clean after each use and store in a carrying case. That makes a ton of sense,” Bergstrom said. “It’s just really smart products.”
The new business comes at a perfect time, as many in the community focus on New Year resolutions. According to an Urban Plates/Ipsos poll on 2020 New Year resolutions, using data gathered by surveying a sample of 2,011 adults over the age of 18, 22 percent of people aim to “be more ‘green’” this year.
Bergstrom said that goal is a good one, and she looks forward to helping community members achieve it. However, she also encourages people to be mindful of how much waste can actually be created if a lifestyle switch is taken too suddenly.
“Starting right away is great, but a lot of people just start throwing things away so that they can start fresh. That’s even more wasteful. Use up the stuff you have, and then donate the things you want to get rid of that are still in good condition,” she said.
In the back of the store, Bergstrom said she plans to have a “plant bar,” where customers can buy and pot plants, bring their plants in to be re-potted or even host gatherings where people can create their own terrariums.
She also hopes to offer a range of classes to teach community members how to start and maintain low-waste lifestyles.
“I want to get as close to zero waste as possible,” Bergstrom said. “Living zero waste is not really achievable in this day and age, but living low waste is. It’s about creating as little waste as you can.”
Bergstrom said, this being her third business to open on Main Street, she is grateful for the community’s support, and she looks forward to providing a new service and product line unique to downtown.
“I just have a lot of love for this community, and there’s been so much support. To see our Main Street flourish the way that it is, I want to help keep it going and keep it growing. There’s something special about downtown Ames, and I’m just really enthusiastic to keep trying new things,” she said.
“I hope that it’s a place people can swing into, and find some things they can’t get elsewhere that are going to be reusable. If it comes out the way I want it to, it’s going to be beautiful. I’m excited to see where it goes.”