Former Madison County Jail Now Offers Handmade Gifts

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WINTERSET, Iowa- As Christmas shoppers search for just the right gift, some around Winterset have discovered a place where hand-made gifts can be found, behind bars.

The First Avenue Collective is located in the former Madison County Jail. Sandra Geronimo and Sarah Reed moved here four years ago for the chance to open this shop.

“People who come to the jail who have either worked here or lived here or been incarcerated here, and be able to share their stories,” said Reed.

The old jail still has the character of when it was in operation. Signs posted on the door advise rules for visiting prisoners. A backdrop with height marks for booking photos is on one wall. Some people like to have their “booking” photo taken. First Avenue Collective can take that photo and put it on a mug.

The old jail door mechanism works, but the doors do not close.

“People come here not so much to buy the Christmas decor, but the Christmas gift, the perfect gift to give to somebody that’s handmade,” said Geronimo. “Just kind of ventured out and found some really neat art from people in California and North Carolina, but our focus is Iowa made, and so we’re always looking for Iowa artists.”

The two were surprised by the community of Winterset when they located here.

“What is commonly known as ‘Iowa Nice,’ I wasn’t’ familiar with it, but I experienced the wonderful welcome and hospitality of people in Winterset,” said Reed. “The second thing that struck me was the pride that people have in this community.”

Reed is giving back. In 2020 she will co-chair the Covered Bridge Festival here.

If you would like to know more about the First Avenue Collective, click here.


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