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The Cost of Living Diaries: Cedar Valley, IA

Learn from a local what everyday life is like in the Cedar Valley area of Iowa. 

By Lindsey Hyde on July 7, 2022

Courtesy of Waterloo Public Library under a CC 4.0 license.

Welcome to The Cost of Living Diaries. How much does it cost to live in Cedar Valley, IA? What’s an average mortgage, a cocktail, or a week’s worth of childcare? Keep reading because we asked a Cedar Valley local to tell us all about the cost of living in this thriving city!

Cedar Valley is what you might call a Midwest oasis. Comprised of six different counties, this gem of a region is home to a slew of must-live communities. Together, they provide residents with a thriving arts scene, fun family-friendly activities, an exciting nightlife, exquisite eateries and a list of must-attend concerts and festivals, among other things. 

To find out more about what it’s like to live, work and play in this eclectic area, we sat down with Lisa Bradford. She has lived in the area all her life and opened a brick-and-mortar in November 2021 for Lisa Lou Boutique and Beauty, a clothing business she started out of her home in 2018. 

Lisa Bradford stands outside of her shop, Lisa Lou Boutique and Beauty, in Cedar Valley, IA.

Lisa Bradford
Lisa Lou Boutique and Beauty, a clothing business she started out of her home in 2018. 

Q: What made you decide to stay in the Waterloo area? 
A: Mostly family, and it’s a great place to raise children. I have seven. My oldest is 32, and my youngest is 17. I feel like there are plenty of opportunities and activities for kids to get involved in so that their future is not just a dead end. It’s anything from sports to academic activities — there’s so much. 

Q: How would you describe the community and its residents? 
A: If I go other places, people aren’t super friendly, and I would say here, we’re like, “Hey,” to a perfect stranger. It’s just friendly. So it’s kind of weird, it’s a smaller town, but it’s like a bigger city in a way. There’s a lot going on. You can always find what you’re looking for.

Q: What made you want to open a business here, and what resources did you utilize?
A: I felt like there was a need for women’s clothing because of our mall going kind of south at this time — a lot of businesses are leaving our malls. 

I actually took a class. It’s called the BBEA Accelerator, and they give you a lot of different tools — as far as how to do business taxes, how to categorize your business. That class was super beneficial. It’s run through 24/7 Black (Leadership Advancement Consortium). That’s an organization that helps to boost entrepreneurs of color so they can follow their dreams and actually live their dream as an entrepreneur, whatever their business might be. 

Q: Did you choose to buy a home in the area? What was that like?
A: I bought my home (in 2007). I see now these days that people’s rent is higher than mortgages, so yeah, it was a good deal. It’s a split-level home with three bedrooms, and it has a front and backyard. I love where I live. I don’t have plans of moving at this time, but you just never know what happens in life. 

Q: What’s your favorite restaurant in the area, and about how much would you pay for dinner for two people?
A: It’s in Cedar Falls, but I really like Asian Fusion. My favorite thing there is the pho — it’s the noodles and meat and beansprouts, and you sprinkle the lime juice on it and put a little sauce in there, and it’s so good. (Dinner for two) would be under $50. 

Q: Do you have a favorite coffee shop in the area? How much would your favorite drink cost?
A: Oh my gosh, yes, I love Cabin Coffee (Co.). So Cabin Coffee really looks like a cabin in real life. I was introduced to Cabin Coffee when I used to work dispatch downtown for 911, and I’ve been hooked ever since, and that was around 2018. They have specialty coffees. They serve breakfast. They have sandwiches. They are all super, duper nice. I love them! I love to get (a medium) palomino. Because it’s a designer coffee, it’s probably going to run around $6. 

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do for entertainment in the area?
A: Usually hang out with my husband. We go bike riding; we go walking in the downtown area. You can get to downtown Waterloo; you can get all the way to Cedar Falls with the (Cedar Valley Nature Trail, a path that runs 52 miles and spans four counties). 

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