New store in Lansing Mall doesn’t charge its customers


A new store in the Lansing Mall eliminates the single biggest barrier between the under privileged and necessary items like a new jacket or a pair of shoes: money. The Fretail Store invites those in need to come in, shop and take whatever they need, free of charge. 

Fretail Store owner Michael Karl, founder of the volunteer organizations Homeless Angels and Cardboard Prophets, as well as the Capital Area Diaper Bank, wanted to create a safe haven for people who don’t have the money to shop elsewhere to get important quality of life goods without worrying about cost or judgment. 

“It allows people that would never have a shopping experience, to have one with dignity. It allows them to come in the mall and shop just like they would in any other store. They have stuff put in a bag at checkout, with a receipt that tells them they matter. They can walk out with dignity with the things that they need,” Karl said. 

Items at the Fretail Store are all tagged, and customers take what they’ve selected to the front desk and the merchandise is then given to them without exchanging any cash. 

The Fretail Store, so far, has been successful. Since opening in December Karl said there have been more than 2,000 visitors to the shop. Karl and his volunteers log what is given out at the Fretail Store; Karl claimed the store has been responsible for handing out 3,600 articles of clothes, 7,000 new toys, 1,500 diapers and “countless “personal care items.

“I thought what a cool idea to have a regular retail store but have everything be free, and so the Fretail Store was born. We have tags like any other store, but we give everything out for free. Everything from clothing, toys, shoes, food and diapers,” Karl said. 

Karl said he was inspired to dedicate himself to working with charitable organizations and creating foundations of his own, thanks to his own experience with homelessness. Help from a good Samaritan inspired Karl to continue paying it forward. 

“I was homeless myself in the early-00s, and a pastor I met from Kalamazoo put me in a hotel. How I began helping people started with him helping me,” Karl said.

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