A city of Faribault employee has opened a new boutique in the Faribo West Mall, packing a small corner storefront with handmade jewelry, bracelets and clothing.

A staffer in the city’s Community & Economic Development Department who also works on the side at Jo-Ann’s Fabrics, Kari Casper is a busy person. She also loves sewing and making custom jewelry, and over the last decade she’s built that hobby into an increasingly popular side business.

At first, the Faribault native relied on word of mouth to build her clientele. As the years went by, she began going to events and relying increasingly on social media. Now, she’s taken another big step with the launch of her first brick and mortar storefront.

The new store goes under a simple name, “Kari’s.” She may have a new venue, but Casper is still committed to providing quality jewelry and clothing at an affordable price. That’s helped her to build up a clientele so loyal and supportive that she said she was able to cover the rent for the year based on her first night of sales.

Casper says that aside from a few of the rings and purses in the store, every item is handmade. She loves to mix and match colors with her jewelry and clothing, providing an almost endless variety for customers to choose from.

Casper also makes custom jewelry and clothing to order for those with specific tastes. Even though her location may be cramped already, she’s able to make some of that from her workbench located right in the store.

Casper said that the biggest challenge that stores like hers face is the challenge of online retailers as well as the notion that “nothing is happening” at local malls like Faribault West Mall.

Under the leadership of Mall Promotion Coordinator and Event Manager Laura Sterling, the mall has worked hard to burnish an image as a place where things happen in Faribault. That strategy has achieved significant success, with a series of successful public events and several new boutiques bringing people back in.

In recent months, numerous mall storefronts have been filled and several additional new stores are on the way. Casper said that she was particularly excited to hear that two new boutiques had just opened in the mall — one right next to her and one across from her.s

With different clientele and types of goods, she said she looks forward to sharing customers with the other stores.

“When I heard that to other boutiques had recently opened, I was excited!” she said. I thought, let’s try to get my customers to see her stuff and her customers to see mine.”

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