NOTEBOOK: What you need to know about Little Village Des Moines and Raygun’s involvement in its launch
MICHAEL CRUMB Dec 29, 2021 | 3:58 pm
4 min read time838 wordsAll Latest News, Business Record Insider, Culture, The Insider Notebook
Mike Draper, owner of Raygun, is helping Little Village launch a Des Moines version of the weekly magazine focused on arts and culture. Photo contributed by Mike Draper
If all goes according to plan, Des Moines may have a new weekly magazine that focuses on the arts and culture community by next spring.
Des Moines-based T-shirt store Raygun announced recently in its e-newsletter that it is helping Little Village in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids get a Des Moines version of the weekly magazine off the ground.
We were curious about what that would look like and what it might mean for our community, so we spoke with Raygun owner Mike Draper, who studied history in college and has done some writing, including as an intern at Cityview, to learn more about his involvement and the plan to launch Little Village Des Moines by spring of 2022.
Tell us more about the plan for Little Village Des Moines.
We talked about whether it was better to have a fully different name but then decided there would be enough overlap that there can be separate print publications, but then a website where statewide news can live. There will be a separate calendar online for Des Moines and central Iowa events versus eastern Iowa, and then the publications are separate with different content. But all the content can be aggregated on the website, so the website is Iowa inclusive.
What is your role in launching the publication?
I’ve thought about something like this, an independent news magazine that focuses on arts and culture especially. It’s been in the back of my mind for years, and we thought about, do we start one from scratch? We knew Matt [Steele] from Little Village and talked to him, so I knew they had some services. I talked to them years ago about the concept of starting a whole new magazine in Des Moines, and over time that morphed into what if we just bring Little Village to Des Moines. We can share their layout expertise and management expertise, and I think Little Village has realized that you need a strong local connection to make something like this work. Even coming from Iowa City it would be tricky to get off the ground from a distance. My goal is not to run the magazine or be its editor, or funding the entire thing. We committed as an early funder. We’re committed to ad revenue. We’re committed to helping them in a small sense financially but primarily checking in and taking their model and helping them apply it to Des Moines. Just find a group of interested people here to support it and get it off the ground.
Are you seeing broad support to get Little Village Des Moines off the ground?
The first step was to say, “Is there enough advertising commitment to check a couple of financial boxes for the first year?” So we reached out to other business owners … to see if there was interest from those groups in even advertising. We started that in November and had a great response initially from those first round of advertisers, so we said, “OK, there should be a path for advertising sales and now we will focus on more connections in the community and content.” Looking at it from both sides, I think there is a demographic in the city who have been waiting for something like this and have great knowledge, and some new voices who would appreciate a platform to work through.
What made now the right time to do this?
When I look back, there is this strange pattern in that there have been a few financial near-death experiences at Raygun that big projects have come from. We wrote “The Midwest: God’s Gift to Planet Earth” a year after one of our worst financial years in our history. And similarly, when last year rattled us, you just kind of look around and what you think the community needs, and this project has been in the back of my mind for a while. As I get older, I think to myself, if I were 22 and 38-year-old me was still here running this store, 22-year-old me would probably wonder why 38-year-old me wasn’t supporting a project like this. You get to this realization if you are a community leader in a sense, and not quite a young professional any more, you should take on projects like this. You have the means and knowledge to make it happen. So we should do it. Should I redo my roof? Probably. Should I maybe renovate my house? Yeah, I guess I could have, but at the same time this is what drives me. What could possibly be terrible decisions but which I think are needed. It’s not a foregone conclusion. If there wasn’t any risk to it, somebody would have done it by now. I think there’s a need for it and I think it will better the community more than people expect.