A Conversation with Victoria Veiock

As she shutters the door on Wicker and the Works this month, the West Des Moines entrepreneur reflects on nearly 40 years in the business.

By the end of the month, Victoria Veiock, owner of Wicker and the Works in the Valley Junction area of West Des Moines, will see a marked change in her daily routine. That’s when the shop will close for good, after a busy holiday shopping season. Normally in January, she goes to gift market to plan ahead for the next holiday season.

She has had her pulse on the homeowners in the area. What do they like? How do they decorate their homes? What’s important to them? It’s no wonder she called the business “The Furniture Store for Groovy Grown-Ups.” In the early days, starting in 1978, the shop focused on wicker and rattan furniture. Her idea for the shop came from the fact that she lived in an apartment over a wicker store—and worked there, too—while going to school in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She decided to move back near her hometown of Indianola to open a similar-type shop she called Wicker World.

As she shutters the door on Wicker and the Works this month, the entrepreneur reflects on nearly four decades in the business, along with her next adventure.

Lots of people will miss “the furniture store for groovy grownups.” Was it just the right time to retire?

At a Valley Junction merchants’ meeting, KCL Engineering approached me about our building, as the firm was wanting more space. I thought about it, and everything just fell into place. I literally grew up in the business and in this store. When my dad helped me get the store initially, I figured we needed about 2,500 square feet. At first, we did only use about half the building. This building has 10,000 square feet, and somehow in a short time, we filled it up and kept on growing.

How has the business changed over the years?

The local furnishings landscape has changed for sure. We counted up once. When we started in 1978, there were about 30 independent furniture stores in the metro area, from McIntyre’s to Cole’s to Liddell’s to Black’s and many more. Now all those are gone, and we have big box stores. Also, the Internet has changed virtually everything. In 2005 we added Gallery V, the design and contemporary accessory lines to the store. Shoppers often ask about certain accessories, and I try to be accommodating. But then they go home and order the pieces online. That has changed incredibly.

How have consumers changed?

It used to be that consumers would buy furniture, for example, and use it forever. Then, when it wore out, they would have it reupholstered and use it for an even longer time. Young people, however, don’t have that standard anymore. I blame it on spots such as IKEA, where furnishings don’t cost as much, so they become somewhat disposable. If people move, they may leave their furnishings behind and start over in the next spot. Life is more about change. Also, outdoor living has exploded, with outdoor kitchens, fire pits, and pergolas. It is amazing to see.

Has your own style changed?

I absolutely love fabric and furniture. I have had lots of my pieces for years. I might add fresh pillows or different accessories, but, deep down, I fall in love with stuff. Everything goes with other things. It’s a very eclectic look. I have an appreciation for antiques, and so many younger people don’t have that. I have had people ask me what to do with old family pieces, because no one in their family wants those things, and that is sad.

You say your store likely is surprising to those who haven’t been in it for a long time. How so?

Some people come in and think we only have wicker furniture, not realizing we also carry lines of upholstered furniture. They also are surprised by our colorful and whimsical accessories. I guess they thought we were similar to Pier One or World Market, but we’re not.

Wicker and the works has always been something of a family affair.

Yes, it has. My husband, Mark Veiock, owns a number of buildings in the Valley Junction area—he helps me, and I help him. We’re a team. Many people say they have watched our two daughters grow up, as they often have been on our TV commercials with me. Older daughter Vanessa is 30 and is a teacher on the East Coast. Valerie, 24, is getting her master’s degree from Grand View University here in Des Moines.

Are you having bittersweet moments as you close down the business?

Definitely. There has been such an outpouring of love for what we have accomplished. Young children who came into the shop with their parents many years ago are now customers themselves, and that is fun, of course. It will be an adjustment, that’s for sure.

Any special plans for the future?

Oh, yes. I already have bought another smaller spot on Fifth Street in Valley Junction and will have a design consulting firm. It will be Victoria Veiock Designs; phone number, 515.988.4955.

Plus, when we first started the shop, Valley Junction was known for antiques stores and bars. That has changed, and I hope to help draw new independent entrepreneurs to this area, which is so special. If we continue to want conventions and presidential candidates to come to our area, we need independent shops to draw visitors here. Big box stores and national chains won’t do that.
There are lots of changes and new adventures ahead. I’m ready for it all.