Courtesy photos: Above, Kara Grayson, left, is the owner of Dakota Soul, a new boutique in Brookings, and Michelle Grayson is the manager. Located at 2035 Orchard Drive, Dakota Soul Boutique has “a little bit of everything” for women, including clothes, accessories, home décor, and personalized jewelry made by Kara Grayson. Below, Michelle Grayson folds clothes in Dakota Soul Boutique.

Kara Grayson wanted a one-stop shop for women to get clothes, jewelry and gifts, so she started two stores that complement each other: Dakota Soul Boutique, which has “a little bit of everything,” and Designs by Kara Marie, which features her handcrafted jewelry.

The stores are located at 2035 Orchard Drive, behind Casey’s General Store off 22nd Avenue. They can be found online under Dakota Soul Boutique on Facebook and Instagram, or call 692-5400.

“We have clothing sizes small to three XL, something to fit everybody. We also have a big variety of home décor and jewelry, as well as personalized jewelry … and other accessories, belts, hats,” Grayson said. “All the accessories to go with it, including shoes.”

Her sister-in-law, Michelle Grayson, manages Dakota Soul and helps with the jewelry when Kara Grayson needs it.

“She’s been with me since the beginning of my jewelry, actually,” Grayson said. “She’s been with me the whole way.”

Frustration leads to opportunity

The idea for a store was born out of frustration.

Grayson describes herself as “a tomboy” growing up in Oldham. She graduated from Arlington High School and came to Brookings when she was 18.

“Then I always liked to dress nice. I could never find much in Brookings and what I did find was a little higher priced, so I talked to my sister-in-law Michelle,” Grayson said. “She was kind of in the same boat, so together, we just kind of decided what we wanted.”

“Not everybody has time to go travel down to Sioux Falls if they needed a last-minute outfit,” Grayson said. “I wanted to have a place where someone can find an entire outfit if they need one last minute. And I wanted to offer sizes for everybody. I didn’t want to just cater to a few sizes. I wanted to make sure everyone could feel at home and find something that they felt comfortable in.”

She wanted the store to be in Brookings, since she lives here. 

“I felt that there was a need for a store that has a lot of options for women. Kind of a one-stop shop, you know, to find anything you needed from gifts, last minute gifts or a new outfit,” Grayson said. 

Jewelry maker

Jewelry is the finishing touch to any outfit and Grayson already had that covered.

“I started making jewelry in 2014,” she said. “I started that as a hobby, just something to do to earn a little extra money here and there.”

When she came to Brookings, Grayson worked in a factory for about seven years. She worked with her husband Mike Grayson, who has a used car lot, South Dakota Truck Center. 

“Then my jewelry kind of took off and I kind of aimed towards that,” Grayson said.

“It’s all self-taught,” she said. 

“I just kind of started small and taught myself and just gradually, gradually learned and added new stuff,” Grayson said.

She makes necklaces, bracelets and rings. 

“I really, really enjoyed it, so I just kept adding and it’s grown into a full-time business,” Grayson said.

She specializes in custom-made jewelry.

“It’s all personalized, hand-made stuff. A lot of mother’s jewelry, grandmother’s jewelry and memorial pieces,” Grayson said. 

Pieces include mother’s and grandmother’s rings and necklaces with kids’ names and birthstones. Memorial pieces have special meaning.

“That’s just pieces that aim to help people cope with the loss of a loved one. Something that has different quotes and sayings and have their loved one’s name on it … just something to remember them and always keep with them,” Grayson said.

Business and COVID

Starting a business is difficult in the best of times, not to mention in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Kara and Mike Grayson decided to forge ahead. 

“You know, it’s funny. My banker, he thought I was crazy ’cause … me and my husband, we actually built the building that we’re in right now.” Grayson said. 

They’d been in the process of building the new building for about a year and a half “and then the pandemic hit and our banker was like, ‘Are you sure you still want to go through this?’ I’m like, ‘We’ve spent all this time and put in all the work to get it ready and get building plans done,’ and we decided we were gonna push forward,” Grayson said.

She had faith in the community.

“We know Brokoings is really good at supporting their local small businesses and everybody wants to help, so we figured we’d go for it and hope for the best and hope the community would help us keep going until the pandemic is over,” Grayson said.

Grayson plans for her business to be around for a long time. 

“Probably the thing I’m looking forward (to) most is just to watch it grow and become part of the community and be able to help give back to the community. They supported us, we’re still going,” she said. “We’re just hoping to grow and be able to give back.”

Contact Jodelle Greiner at jgreiner@brookingsregister.com.

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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