Kasson’s Kelly Johnson takes her online business live and in person – Reuters

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KASSON – Kelly Johnson is going the other way.

In a world full of online shopping and storefront closings, Johnson is taking its business online and adding a very in-person option for customers. In mid-April, Johnson’s General Store — an online store she’s owned for four years where she sells homewares made by Amish and Midwestern suppliers — will have a physical storefront in downtown Kasson. .

“I always wanted to be a trader,” Johnson said. “It’s my calling.”

Johnson said she came from a mail-order background, having worked for a publishing house that fulfilled orders through a website. But she was eager to create a business of her own. That’s when she launched the online version of her store.

Looking for items to buy in bulk, she connected with several Amish artisans who made items ranging from baskets and quilts to aprons and cutting boards, specialty chocolates and more. All of the vendors, Johnson said, are from the Midwest, and she’s worked to develop a relationship with her creators.

“The Amish families I work with have become as close as my own family,” Johnson said, referring to the artisan’s wife who works the leather for her as her kindred spirit. “It’s been a wonderful relationship.”

But Johnson said that as she prepared to retire from the publishing business, she felt drawn to the storefront, especially that of 211W. Main Street in Kasson – and the desire to open a shop in person.

“For me, it’s about the customers,” Johnson said. “I want them to have a unique experience when they walk through my door.”

Johnson contacted a friend in town to ask who the building belonged to and got the name of an LLC in response. So she tracked down the owner and asked, if the space ever became available, that she be contacted.

Sure enough, a few months ago the owner called and said the space – which had housed a hair and nail salon for many years – was going to be available the first week of March.

“I hadn’t asked about the rent, but when I did, I was surprised,” Johnson said. “I told her it might be too high, but she said she would work with me.”

When Johnson was finally able to examine the space, she realized it was too big for her original plans.

“I needed to expand my dream and make it bigger,” Johnson said.

This meant abandoning the original idea of ​​only selling items from Minnesota and the surrounding area. While the website will retain that model — “You don’t fix what ain’t broke,” she said — the in-person store will sell items from around the world.

“I have articles from Paris and articles from Italy,” Johnson said. “I have these sellers from India.”

It is, she says, a unique story. The items are dolls made by women who fled Afghanistan to India. The women collect scraps of fabric from a factory and then use them to make fabric dolls.

“I love it,” Johnson said. “It’s something I can support.”

There’s still work to be done: setting up shelves, entering products into his point-of-sale system, coding items using barcodes, and finishing display cases with his company name and logo. But soon, she’ll be running the company she thinks she was always meant to run.

According to Johnson, what was the show’s former waiting area will offer drinks and snacks for sale, as well as places to sit for shoppers who need a break while a spouse or partner friend continues to shop. The old haircut stations will be part of the store’s display space.

And she’ll be running her mail-order business out the back, freeing up the space the online business currently takes up in her home.

With such international flavor, as well as Midwestern-related items, it might be easy to see her store in Rochester or even an upscale Twin Cities neighborhood. But Johnson said Kasson was still the choice.

After all, she lives in the Dodge County community. She was born and raised there.

And she looks forward to being a business that complements other businesses – antique stores and homeware stores in Kasson, as well as businesses down the road in Mantorville like the Chocolate Shoppe and other specialty stores. antiques.

Now his business will be part of that mix that makes cities such a great shopping destination.

“I always knew it would be here in this town,” Johnson said. “This is where I’m supposed to be, and this is where my clients will come.”

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