- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Ali Oesch has been designing bracelets and necklaces since she was a little girl, and she has wanted to have her own store for almost as long.

But the 31-year-old South Bend native, who is also an avid and competitive cyclist, did not want to haphazardly speed around any corners.

Oesch (pronounced “esh”), who carefully planned out her route, has moved slowly and methodically during the past 10 years to reach her goal and open a traditional retail store.

She excitedly made the announcement Thursday on social media.

Ali on the Boulevard is scheduled to open Feb. 7 at 722 E. Jefferson Blvd. on the East Bank of downtown South Bend. That’s not far from the South Bend Farmer’s Market, where she has been a regular for years.

But now she will have a door to unlock, windows to decorate and a traditional sales floor to fill with her jewelry and accessories in a building she is sharing with another local business.

Oesch will occupy the lower level of the building, while Marigolds Uncommon Home and Garden will occupy the second floor, the South Bend Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1avcZT8 ).

Mari Vogel has been making some changes to her store, which will now feature a new “green” room with plants, pots and vintage garden decor. She is also expanding her children’s area and sells vintage furniture.

“The thing we have in common is the desire to support local businesses,” Vogel says of Oesch. “A majority of my loyal customers are also Ali’s customers, so I felt this would be a good fit. I believe our shared store fits in perfectly with the East Bank.”

As the East Bank expands in residential housing options and sees new business development, Oesch meshes perfectly into this growing local arts district.

She actually started her business from home in the early 2000s, primarily focusing on art shows and house parties, before taking her wares to the South Bend Farmer’s Market in 2003.

“I used to go to the market at 5 in the morning to draw a number for a booth. In the meantime, I worked a full-time job as a waitress at Carriage House,” she recalls.

The move served her so well she ended up buying a booth at the Farmer’s Market, where she has expanded twice. She later launched a website and hired an assistant to help keep up with the growing number of online orders and social media inquiries about her jewelry.

Oesch also expanded into wholesale, supplying boutiques in four states with her handcrafted accessories. But she never wanted to grow so fast that she couldn’t keep up with customer demand.

She also never wanted to take out a business loan and has remained steadfast in growing only as much as her operating capital allowed.

She welcomed her mom, Connie Knapp, into the business in 2007. Mother and daughter now plan to divvy up their time between the new East Bank store and the Farmer’s Market booth.

“We joke that she’s the ‘momager,’ just to throw a Kardashian reference in there. She is great at sales and handles customer relations,” Oesch says. “When I buy for the store I think of what Mom and I would wear. … I feel like if Mom or I wouldn’t like it or wear it, we can’t sell it.”

In addition to jewelry, Ali at the Boulevard will carry scarves, candles, gifts, hair accessories, hats and apparel, including tops and graphic T-shirts and leggings.

Her inventory will offer one-of-a-kind pieces and an ever-changing inventory, including both her signature pieces and items she picks up on buying trips in Chicago, Atlanta and New York. Oesch also does a lot of custom design and repair.

“One of the cutest things are the older women who receive earrings for pierced ears as gifts, and they ask me to convert them into clip-ons. That’s a fun service that’s really not lucrative. But it’s not always about the money, not for me anyway,” she says.

“I’ve built my business by making someone’s memory of someone into something they can have forever. The memory is worth everything,” she says, describing the joy of her work.

“And I’ve always known I wanted to open a store in this kind of arts district that reflected me and our brand. My heart is in South Bend.”


Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com

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