Sacramento fashion blogger takes concept into a bricks-and-mortar business

For several years, Kari Shipman built up a business and expanded her reach by writing a popular fashion blog called Juniper James.

Now she’s taking many of the concepts she touted online into the retail world, operating a retail clothing store in Downtown Plaza. The store includes a selection of thrifted items mixed with locally made products, from men’s bow ties to custom leather handbags.

The store is called Flywheel and shares a 1,600-square-foot retail space with a record store owned by Marty Deanda specializing in vinyl. Shipman’s part of the shop is called Juniper James, which is still the name of her blog; the record store is Medium Rare Records.

Flywheel is the name of a business incubator that focuses on the “creative economy” and is run by the Arts & Business Council of Sacramento.

Shipman was featured in The Bee in 2011 for the blog and her ideas about thrift fashion. After running the blog for several years, she gave a pitch to Flywheel and was accepted into the program, which offers mentoring and technical guidance for setting up a new business.

“It was a big learning process for me,” said Shipman, 29. “I’ve never worked in retail, much less run retail, so everything about this was a learning curve that went straight up. But the process from ‘I write a blog’ to ‘I own a shop,’ I definitely couldn’t do it with just my own sweat and blood.”

The incubator arranged for a series of seminars with a variety of mentors, including a business lawyer and a financial planner.

Shipman’s well-appointed store features an array of clothing and accessories for men and women. She made her name touting the wonders of thrift shopping and she continues to believe it’s the best – and most affordable – way to express personal style.

“Thrift is responsible, and it’s green,” she said. “For people who aren’t intending to spend a ridiculous amount on their wardrobes, I’m always wearing under $20 worth of clothes at all times.

“I like being able to empower people to not buy into the consumerism thing. I try to help my clients understand their personality, how they want to express and then where to go to find those things.”

Some of those items could be at Juniper James, though Shipman is not above pointing clients to other thrift store outlets in the area.

Shipman opened her shop in March. It’s no secret that Downtown Plaza is not only ailing but is on its last legs, what with a new Kings arena planned for the site.

Shipman and the incubator worked out a deal to get free rent, which will allow her to get her business off the ground without the stress of monthly rent payments.

During a recent visit to the store, she pointed to the work of several small designers whose products she sells – metal work, leather goods, handmade neckties and much more. She sees it as her mission to help spread the word about their talents and allow them to do more and sell more.

“I really have a lot of respect for all of them,” she said. “It’s kind of my goal that they outgrow me.”