We decided to spread our holiday shopping dollars around, beyond the Internet, and found a pleasant outing in the process. Earlham is a small town 30 miles west of Des Moines, with a still viable little downtown, about 2 blocks long and one block deep with well-preserved old one- and two-story brick buildings. There’s also some entrepreneurs, the two best known being RJ Home which used to be a vintage/salvage store and now is also gussied up as a gift shop with reasonably-priced ceramics, furniture and other housewares. It’s only open one three-day weekend per month except in December when it’s open two Friday-Saturday combos. (The last one in December is 10-11; check its website.) And there are two locations, south and north, one on each of the two blocks downtown.
The other highlight is Beans and Beignets, a sweet coffee shop/cafe in a lovely old two-story redbrick corner shop. The coffee and beignets were good, as was the Cobb salad and chicken salad sandwich. It shares space with another little gift/home goods/floral shop. The breakfast and ice cream options looked good too.
We skipped the Interstate on the drive there and part of the way back, driving on backroads and sometimes dirt roads, past tidy old farmsteads, exurban mansions and, increasingly, burgeoning subdivisions rising from former cornfields.