Local Spotlight: Gong Fu Tea

Come for the Tea, Stay for the Atmosphere

Gong Fu Tea was started by two men who were ready to get out of the corporate world … and out of the coffee world, too. This eventually led to them starting Gong Fu Tea (see the full story here) and I’m glad they did!

When you walk in, you’re greeted with a wall FULL of tea to choose from. As well as an area to view select teas (psst … not all of them look like tea leaves). You can pick up each canister, look it over and smell the tea.


There is a catalog of teas you can look through – the staff is so helpful and will tell you how to brew your tea to perfection. For example, you’ll get instructions on the exact temperature and the number of minutes your tea should brew. If your history with tea is to keep a tea bag in hot water until you remember to take it out then this will blow your mind! Steeping your tea to their exact specifications makes a world of difference in flavor!

They have tea pots and tea cups for sale and will show you how to use them. You can browse through their teas on the website, but trust me, it’s much better going in where you can smell and even try a sample of the tea.

Gong Fu Tea is located in the East Village, close the corner of E Grand and E 6th. Let me know if you end up going there! I’d love to know which teas you tried.


Small Business Saturday

Join us in Supporting Local Businesses

As you know, we love supporting local business and even have a “local spotlight” category on our blog. Small businesses benefit the local economy, build personal relationships throughout town and help build up the community. They’re always the first to donate to local causes. Being locally owned ourselves, we know what it’s like to absolutely love the community we live in and the enjoyment owners feel while connecting with the community – after all, you’re our friends and family, too.

Start with this list …

We’ve been asking around for recommendations of businesses to visit on Small Business Saturday (and every day!). We think you’ll be delighted to hear about businesses not only in the Des Moines area, but in surrounding communities as well. We’re ready for a road trip!

We know this is a short list and would love for you to comment either on our blog post or on Facebook and let us know which businesses you would add to the list.

Beauty & Personal Care

Sugar Lane Studios (shop the website or watch for pop-up shops)
Website | Facebook

salonREDboutique & Day Spa in Osceola

Clothing, Shoes, Jewelry

Maria Vincent Boutique (shop the website or watch for pop-up shops)
Website | Facebook

Worn Consignment Shop in West Des Moines
Website | Facebook

Norma Jeans Threads in Winterset (on the square)
Website | Facebook

MintL.A. Boutique in the East Village
Website | Facebook

Spoons Full of sugar in Winterset
Website | Facebook

Mainstream Boutique Waukee
Website | Facebook

Gifts & Unique Finds

The Grassroots Home in Osceola

RJ Home in Earlham
Website | Facebook

JandS Salvage Decor in Earlham (Grand opening on Small Business Saturday!)

Danish Windmill Elk Horn
Website | Facebook


Madison County Candle Company (watch for events or order from Facebook)

H.Prall and Co. (home styling consultant works directly with you)
Website | Facebook

THE COLLECTIVE Downtown Des Moines
Website | Facebook

Art Terrarium Downtown Des Moines
Website | Facebook

Changing Places Consignment in Urbandale
Website | Facebook


Rusty Duck in Dexter

Latin King on Hubbell in East Des Moines
Website | Facebook

Sonny’s Pizza Bistro in Des Moines

The Fletcher Kitchen + Bar in Ankeny
Website | Facebook

Sakari Sushi Lounge on Ingersoll Ave
Website | Facebook

JJ Jasmine ThaiCuisine in downtown Des Moines

Tumea And Sons Restaurant & Lounge on the Southside of Des Moines
Website | Facebook

Mi Patria in West Des Moines
Website | Facebook

Olympic Flame in the East Village
Website | Facebook

Local Spotlight: Olympic Flame

Authentic Greek Food

Olympic Flame is a delicious restaurant in the East Village serving authentic Greek food since 1987. The owner and chef is from Olympia, Greece! They are open for lunch and dinner (or call for take out).

Their gyros and baklava are soooo good they keep us coming back for more! Plus the fact that we’re always greeted with a smile and on Fridays you might get to see a performance from belly dancers (how fun is that?!).

Check out their menu on their website.

Thank you for the delicious meal and amazing service, Olympic Flame!

Local Spotlight: Steve’s Chef Kabob & Other Food Finds at the Farmers’ Market

We don’t know about the rest of you, but we’ve been hitting the Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market as much as possible this summer! And we’re always looking forward to stopping at our favorite food stands. If you’re ready to try new flavors and expand your taste buds, we recommend these local Farmers’ Market food finds:

1. Steve’s Chef Kabob

Family-owned (three generations working together!), Steve’s Chef Kabob is the one of the first places many market goers stop at to put in their orders. They’re known for their fried tempura vegetables, kabobs with sticky rice, egg rolls, and crab rangoons.

It’s not uncommon for folks to stop by first thing and put in a huge order for crab rangoons, shop around the market, then come back later to pick their orders up. Weekly orders of crab rangoons and egg rolls? YES PLEASE!

Sounds amazing, right? Just wait … there’s more …

Check out these other great food finds

2. Rootz Afro Caribbean Cuisine

Yum … West African-style food like peanut butter chicken, jerk chicken, jollof rice … and when we’re extra lucky, ox tail!

3. Pupusas – El Salvador

You must get at least one pupusa while at the Farmer’s Market! Plus, don’t forgot to try some of the other El Salvadorian-style food, too. You’ll love it!

4. Say Cheese Des Moines

Ready for home-made, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches? (YES!) Made with fresh bread from Gateway market, you’re going to fall in love!

5. Des.Fresh.Foods

Stop by to taste delicious vegan food that’s locally sourced! Try crepes, spring rolls, cookies, and more!

The Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market is open May-Oct. Get more information here

Local Spotlight: JMT Trucking

25 years of Hauling

JMT Trucking is a dump truck company specializing in hauling aggregate and dirt for all types of industries, Commercial, residential, heavy highway, and agriculture.

“I started the company in 1994 following the sale of the ready mix concrete business that my wife and I along with her 3 brothers owned. I figured it would be a good way to continue to serve the same customer base that we had built while in the ready mix business.” – Jeff Wangsness

JMT Trucking has always valued the importance of being a good community partner. For example, we’ve always been able to count on them to support causes like the Charity House that Greenland Homes has built 5 years in a row, dedicating profits to the Children’s Cancer Connection.

Their level of service through their business and through the community is unmatched and we’re proud to work with them!

“I believe our customers have come to expect a high level of service from us. They have the confidence that we have always made it a priority to have late model equipment with highly trained drivers that provide a level of safety. Time is money in just about any business but especially the construction business in the Midwest. We only have so many working days since not much can be done during the Winter months. We have built a relationship with a lot of independents in an effort to always be able to respond to our customers demand.” – Jeff Wangsness

To learn more about JMT Trucking visit their website jmttrucking.com.

Local Spotlight: Tom Onnen

Getting Your Home Ready for You to Move In

Tom Onnen’s business specializes in Final Cleans of new construction homes and Rough Cleans of new construction homes. Tom started his business over 30 years ago after seeing a need in the industry. As of today it has grown to over a million dollar company!

“Builders depend on us. We are where we are supposed to be when we are supposed to be there. We are known for our punctuality and thoroughness.” – Tom Onnen, Owner.

Local Spotlight: Angry Goldfish

Image Source: Angry Goldfish Facebook Page. Follow them here.

South-Side Treat!

You can’t miss this red building when driving down SW 9th street. If you’re downtown, just head south and you’ll see it!

The patio on the north side of the building is covered, breezy, and delightful! If you’ve been to Angry Goldfish or already heard about them then you probably already know that they’re known for their huge, delicious burgers. They did not disappoint!

Merlot Mushroom Burger
Bruschetta Chicken Sandwich

Parking was easy – there is a lot behind the building. If that lot is full then you can park across the street (it’s easy to find and marked with signs). SW 9th is pretty busy, but we found it easy and safe to cross with no issues.

You can check out their menu and daily specials on their website.

Thank you for the delicious meal and amazing service, Angry Goldfish!

Local Spotlight: Redfox Inspections

“No one wants a cold house in the winter and hot house in the summer.”

Clients buying new construction homes probably haven’t heard of Redfox Inspections, even though they play a huge role in their daily lives. They’re a third party that is hired by home builders to make sure each client has an energy efficient home. In the end, their services provide extra comfort to homeowners. No one wants a cold house in the winter and hot house in the summer.

9 years of full service residential and commercial energy compliance inspection.

“Part of me getting into this business was out of necessity. I lost my job in the corporate world and was tired of being in the position of working for someone. I was always interested in building science and was doing research into options and this field was a good fit. I went out of state for training and got started with a few builders and the rest is history. Today we have a staff of 9 people to take care of our clients.” – Corey DePenning, owner.

Redfox Inspections is now Iowa’s only Pearl Certified energy inspection company! You can learn more about Redfox Inspections on their website and connect with them on Facebook.

Local Spotlight: Cook Plumbing Corporation

In Business Since 1978

Cook Plumbing is located in West Des Moines and serves the Des Moines metro and surrounding areas. Their plumbing work includes new construction and the service of residential and commercial projects. No doubt you’ve seen their trucks around Des Moines!

Mark Cook, owner of Cook Plumbing Corporation, started his professional career by graduating from Des Moines Technical High School in 1967. From 1967 to 1969 he was in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and shortly after graduated from Architectural Drafting at DMACC. Mark attended a 5-year Apprenticeship Trade School and graduated in 1975. After trade school, Mark was employed by several mechanical contracting firms, and then started Cook Plumbing Corporation in 1978. We’re so glad he took the leap to start his own business!

Cook Plumbing is a local company that prides itself on providing quality products and services at a fair price to members of their community. Visit cookplumbing.com to see a list of their services and to contact them today. For on-going updates and to connect online, follow them on Facebook.

Local Spotlight: Sugar Lane Soap Co.

There’s a hidden gem in Waukee you need to hear about!

Nothing beats the luxury of enjoying the fresh scents and silky textures of handcrafted bath and body care products. For the past two years, Sugar Lane Soap Co. has been crafting small batches of unique sugar scrubs, lotions, and bath bombs right here in Central Iowa.

Crafting is a passion for Angela Lahr of Waukee. She created the business after a post of one of her creations went viral on Instagram. Since then requests have continued for more of her custom products.

“Each recipe is formulated and tested with your skin care needs in mind, “ Lahr said. “I believe presentation and quality are of the utmost importance.”

Must-have Products

One of the first things we noticed about Angela’s products is how GORGEOUS they are! (Just like Angela! Have you met her? She’s gorgeous inside and out! And so much fun to be around.)

The photos on Instagram and Facebook will make you want EVERYTHING. Whether you’re looking to indulge in comfort or need a one-of-a-kind gift for someone special, these body care items are all available from Sugar Lane Soap Co. We asked Angela to list out the products that have been the most popular …

  • Goats’ milk body bars for men, women, and children (available with loofahs!)
  • Whipped body mousse – a best seller
  • Exfoliating sugar scrubs
  • Facial masks
  • Moisturizing lotions
  • Soothing heat wraps
  • Lip balms
  • Effervescent bath bombs
  • Bath salts
  • Body wash

Each product is available in a variety of scents from the calming lavender heat wraps to the energetic lemon-poppy seed scrub. Don’t see the scent you want? No problem – custom orders are available!

Where to Shop

Have we mentioned how GORGEOUS these products are? You’ll feel proud giving these as gifts and you’ll feel pampered buying them for yourself. Sugar Lane Soap Co. hosts several pop-up events through the year along with in-home shopping (follow on Facebook for her event schedule). All products are also available online through www.sugarlanesoapco.com. A special Birthday Par-tay will be from 6 to 9 p.m. May 31 at Sugar Lane Soap Co. to celebrate 2 years of business with food, drinks, and shopping.

And of course, we had to ask if she had any special products for Mother’s Day … she does! Check out the Mother’s Day JO.y boxes!

All images in this post are courtesy of Angela at Sugar Lane Soap Co.