RAYGUN Des Moines Brings Out The Best In The Midwest

Ryan LeFort and Mia Ross

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Generally, people accustomed to the chaos of east and west coast cities will overlook the Midwest as an empire of corn fields and Walmarts. Compared to cities like New York City and Los Angeles, the Midwest is a considerably less popular tourist region. However, in no way does this mean the Midwest is boring or outdated. Nestled in the center of East Village in Des Moines, Iowa is an apparel store known as RAYGUN. Nicknamed “The Greatest Store In The Universe,” RAYGUN is filled with a variety of items from clothing to postcards, beaming with phrases of Midwestern pride. Among these are gems such as “Some pray for Heaven. Others already live in Iowa,” “Cedar Rapids: 5 seasons. 126,326 attractive residents,” and “The Midwest: God’s Gift to Planet Earth!” The very essence of the store is to brighten up people’s days through satirical products.

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While the store’s general theme is showing pride in being from the Midwest, RAYGUN also sells politically-directed merchandise. Some of these products create jokes out of conservative agendas, the GOP, and anti-LGBT procedures such as conversion therapy.IMG_5122

Taylor Frame, Director of Stores and Inventory, explained the process of coming up with all these creative prints. The creative team meets to pitch ideas for products, he described it as “throwing ideas at one another and seeing who survives.” While on a tour of the store, we met some of the employed workers who, along with Taylor, started out as part-time workers and eventually moved up to permanent positions. They talked about how the store and its message are what made them apply for a job in the first place. “I came out of college with a degree in marketing and now i’m a firm disbeliever in it,” Taylor says, “we believe that good products sell themselves.” It takes a certain mindset to work at RAYGUN, and the employees exemplify that.

IMG_5117IMG_5115IMG_3423RAYGUN is also connected to a small cafe called Mars Cafe. When asked about this, Taylor explained “If we pair with another business we want to make sure that they are a good addition to the business. We don’t want to be partnered with big corporations like Coffee Bean or Starbucks because we don’t want to push our products on people.”

 

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All of the products are made in the store behind the register. They design, press, and ship all of their products directly from the store. We saw, that even with all the designs they had in the store, there were hundreds that were still in production. Additionally, the company website (https://www.raygunsite.com) has a window where unused designs can be viewed by customers to fully appreciate the creativity of RAYGUN’s designers.

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IMG_5114IMG_5113RAYGUN stores, compared to other shopping outlets, are integrated within the community. It has a voice that is unique to the surroundings of the four store locations as well as the country. The quality of products and designs produced by RAYGUN successfully connect with a modern audience, epitomizing the company’s belief that a good product will sell itself. RAYGUN possesses more of a meaning than any other apparel store with its deep roots in Midwestern pride and desire to make an impact upon people, setting it apart from the rest.IMG_5119