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Fashioning success: Jezebel owner dares to be different

Marlene Card-Reeck, the owner of Jezebel in Perham, inside the shop. Marie Nitke/FOCUS

April Fools' Day will mark the one-year anniversary of Jezebel in its current location, and owner Marlene Card-Reeck said things at the shop have been "excellent."

"We love the building," she said of her corner spot on First Avenue in downtown Perham. "I feel extremely fortunate to be in this location."

A former bank that boasts high ceilings, hardwood floors, stained-glass windows and a back room that used to be a vault, the space is well suited for Card-Reeck's unique clothing and home décor store.

"From the minute we walked in the back door, it just felt right," she said.

As someone who takes pride in presentation, Card-Reeck immediately recognized the value in the decorative details of the historic building, and knew she could play them up to set an appealing stage for her merchandise.

Jezebel is well known for miles for its hard-to-find-anywhere-else fashions, stylish accessories and fresh décor. The shop is so unique that it draws a regular, year-round customer base from as far away as Fargo and the Twin Cities.

"We like to be different," said Card-Reeck. "It's all about sending people out the door happy."

After spending years in retail and home décor in Staples, Minn., Card-Reeck said opening a shop in Perham felt like the right thing to do. She and her husband, Bob, had gotten to know the area after building a cabin on Big Pine Lake in 2006. Owning her own store was on her 'bucket list,' she said, and she was impressed with the town's "vibrant retail industry."

"I have tremendous respect for all the shop owners in this town," she said. "I think everybody can learn from everybody."

Card-Reeck describes her merchandise as "classic cool." She chooses her clothing based on the fit and fashion, she said, trying to add a little flare to the wardrobes of women who have outgrown teenage trends but still yearn for style. She keeps her inventory sources a secret.

It's a lot of work, but she doesn't do it alone. Card-Reeck has three employees helping her out - Joan Brandt, Mary Guck and Mary Melancon.

"My employees are everything to me," she said. "We have a lot of fun. That's what it's about for me."

She also has her husband, who does odd jobs around the shop from time to time. He owns the lumberyard in Staples, where the couple still make their permanent home. Card-Reeck commutes to and from work about half the time, staying at the cabin the other half.

"It's been a whirlwind," she said of the past year.

Card-Reeck's plan for the future is to continue getting the store up and running to her complete satisfaction before, one day, passing her knowledge and experience on to a new owner or two. But that won't happen for a while.

"In the meantime, I love it here," she said. "It's a great little town."