THE GROUND FLOOR

Scout of Marion sells home goods, gourmet items

'Buy what you love'

Michelle Fischer of Cedar Rapids looks around at Scout of Marion in Marion on Thursday, May. 17, 2018. (Stephen Mally/Th
Michelle Fischer of Cedar Rapids looks around at Scout of Marion in Marion on Thursday, May. 17, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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03:33PM | Mon, February 04, 2019

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MARION — Nikki Kettelkamp started her first business in second grade — making felt bookmarks and selling them from her desk at school.

“Demand far exceeded supply,” Kettelkamp recalled. “And I got in trouble for being distracting.”

While she abandoned that first venture, she never lost the desire to have her own business selling beautiful things.

“I’ve always had this insatiable curiosity for the design world and anything related to food, fashion and décor,” she said.

Kettelkamp’s real career in retail began out of necessity when she took a full-time job at a department store to have benefits while her husband was in medical school.

That first job led to various positions throughout the Midwest as a buyer and regional manager. For the past 15 years, she worked as a key account manager for Chanel, the French fashion and cosmetics company.

“I learned so much about luxury goods,” she said of that position. “Chanel puts such an emphasis on service and experiences. The job was a dream come true.”

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But the position required significant travel, taking Kettelkamp away from her family and often leaving her stressed.

It took the death of a close friend in September to bring perspective. The friend had a bath and home products shop in Des Moines’ East Village, and the two had talked for years about Kettelkamp doing something similar in the Cedar Rapids area.

“During one of my last trips to visit her when she was in home hospice, she looked me in the eye and said, ‘You need to quit your job,’” Kettelkamp said. “I cried all the way home thinking she’s so right. I always wanted to do this.”

A week or two later, Kettelkamp found herself walking down a street in Marion and peering into a vacant building that had a for lease sign in the window.

“The first thing I noticed was this stunning tile floor and knew it was where I needed to be,” she said. “I don’t even know what I was doing there. I had no business in Marion that day.”

Within a matter of days, Kettelkamp committed to leasing the space. She left Chanel in December and, after taking her first long vacation in years, set to work preparing for the opening of Scout on May 5.

Kettelkamp describes Scout as a modern-day general store, but with a cheese counter instead of a candy display. The store offers home goods, personal care products, gourmet pantry items, books and other items for gift giving.

“I’m selling an aesthetic,” Kettelkamp said. “My inventory is highly curated and includes things I’ve seen on my travels or have read about.”

Many of the items are not available elsewhere in Iowa, she said.

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Kettelkamp said she initially struggled trying to make the store be everything to everyone before finally taking her husband’s advice to “just buy what you love and what you love to get.”

“You get so much satisfaction from the things you love,” she said.

l Know a business that’s been in operation for less than a year that could make an interesting “Ground Floor”? Contact michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

At a Glance

l Owner: Nikki Kettelkamp

l Business: Scout of Marion

l Address: 725 11th St., Marion

l Phone: (319) 373-1099

l Website: www.scoutofmarion.com

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