It’s a business model built solely on compassion and humanity.
Tucked in a corner of the Lansing Mall is a new kind of store, where everything is free. The Freetail Store was started by Mike Karl and officially opened in the mall, 5330 W. Saginaw Highway, on Dec. 20.
“The front of the store is The Fretail Store,” Karl said. “And in the back, we have the diaper bank giving away almost 1,500 diapers to those in need. Some weeks we give out 1,500 diapers in the first three days.”
The store takes donations of new or gently-used items for display. Roughly 350 items are given away every day, such as clothing, socks and underwear. So much was donated, the store had to put a hold on new donations for part of February.
“I wanted to create a store where everything is free to give people a message of hope,” said Karl. “People come in here and can pick out whatever they want, no questions asked. We want people to come in here and be treated with the dignity they deserve.”
Everyone behind the counter is a volunteer; no one takes a paycheck.
Karl wants to talk to the mall about expanding to a larger space to accommodate more customers and items as well as host future events.
“I’d love to do a fashion show in the mall, where we get stylists to come in and people pick their clothing. And they can keep the clothing at the end,” he said.
Karl founded Homeless Angels in 2013 to help homeless people find places of residence. When he found himself working behind a desk more and more, he walked away to get back out and help people directly.
“Helping with The Fretail Store is only one of many ways to support the people in need,” he said. “The store is one way I want to bring dignity back to people’s lives — so it doesn’t matter who you are; you can come in and pick up what you want, no questions asked. We just want people to be happy with their items.”
For more information on how to get involved with The Fretail Store or see the store’s updates, visit its page on Facebook at facebook.com/lansingmallfretailstore.