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WINDSOR HEIGHTS, Iowa — Central Iowans traded in their chocolates and flowers for a bouquet of books. “Giving somebody a book is something that is really special and it can be something really personal to people. We chose books this time that are very life-affirming titles and really sweet to gift,” said Abigail Paxton, owner of Storyhouse Bookpub in Windsor Heights.

Paxton began her business in 2020. The pandemic forced her to wait on buying a brick and mortar store and use her garage as an open-air bookstore instead. Sunday’s “Book Bouquet” event brought in several other women-owned local businesses. Nixon & Norman, Bay Laurel Baking Company, Kettle/Black Teahouse and Madison County Candle Company all helped customers put together gift baskets full of books and local goods. “We are also really thinking about this is a time when we all need to be taking care of ourselves. It is cold here in Iowa, we are still in a pandemic and self-care is really important,” Paxton said.

While Valentine’s Day can be notorious for greeting cards and generic candy, Paxton says it can also go a long way toward sweetening a local business’ day. “If you are going to spend money on yourself or others this holiday season, look around and see who is doing some really creative work in Des Moines because there are so many amazing small businesses or ones like us who don’t have four walls and a brick and mortar yet,” said Paxton.

Paxton is also selling books online at You can visit her pop-up store inside MoMere in the Historic Valley Junction.