“Oooh, I just love how these jeans make me feel,” says Richlyn (Richi) Ketterman Norman about a fashionably frayed pair of jeans patched with royal blue sequins that she slips into for our style photo shoot. She and her younger sister, Katelyn (Katie) Ketterman Cockerill and employees Jenna DeBow and Austin Whiting, clearly adore the looks they’ve selected as backdrop to spotlight some of their family business’ bling. They're all flashing grins—even in a steamy studio where the AC strains to keep up with a record heat-wave.
Michelle’s studio is overflowing with outfits they’ve brought from Ketterman’s meticulously curated clothes, purses, belts and shoes. The display is sprinkled liberally with sparkling necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings, and Richi's son, Reese, adds his latest litter of Australian shepherd puppies to create a microcosm of the store itself. Ketterman’s is exactly what it appears to be—a dog-friendly, eclectic emporium chock-full of the family’s very favorite things.
“I guess you could call it a department store,” Richi says, “[but] it kind of defies description.” They see Ketterman’s like an extension of their home, a place they’d like their customers to come to commemorate a memory, celebrate a milestone, seal a lifelong journey or affirm an accomplishment.
“We use the phrase ‘Ketterman’s Always’ as a kind of motto for what we mean by that.”
Richi looks forward to moving to a new store in January (known locally as the former home to Southern States) because it will add an extra 1,000 square feet of display space to better reveal the many categories of gifts, cards and adornments the store offers. She also hints of a new athleisure line to be called “Always LoCo.”
Though she wouldn’t call Ketterman’s “trendy,” the store’s "always" eclectic approach to style is currently all the rage.
“There are no more rules in jewelry," Richi says. "You can mix the old and the new. You can mix shapes and colors, metals and media, and pair items that are really fancy with other pieces that are more whimsical.”
Jewelry should invite comment or a question, offering the wearer a chance to express herself or himself. Customization is also fashionable.
“You can personalize your jewelry or even make your own, which is why we have our custom design shop," Richi says. "We can take pieces you have and make them into something that is new for you or take something from a pencil sketch, carve the wax and cast it. Designer lines like Waxing Poetic have components to mix and match. Customization means you can wear something you love every day, like the bracelet I wear that has [charms for] my two kids and my dog on it.” Engraving adds a final, personalized touch.
In urban fashion, jewelry for men is on the rise, so Austin is on-hand to show us how it’s done.
“We have some new lines like William Henry that appeal to a younger male crowd. Men are stacking bracelets and layering necklaces. William Henry uses materials like dinosaur bone, mammoth tusk and fossils that have a nice masculine feel to them.”
They are more likely to see young men when they’re buying an engagement ring or a wedding band—here, again, more often customized than in years past. Watches, belts and ties top of the usual gifts for grads, always accompanied by a card.
The latter is the ultimate compliment to the family tradition because the Ketterman grandparents who started the business began with a line of greeting cards. Three generations have been raised to appreciate hard work and animal husbandry stemming from the family's farming roots.
Since they don't live on a farm, Reese’s furry college fund is made up of adorable Australian shepherds. He calls them "Reese’s peanut butter pups," and they are each a sweet, softly brindled bundle of love. The current litter was named after Apollo astronauts, “Collins” being everyone’s favorite.
If you stop by the store, you may see pups frolicking in the windows wearing something shiny. If you buy something on the first of the month, 10% of your purchase will fund a local charity through a program the family calls “First Fruits Ministries.” (Learn more at Kettermans.com/Events.) Throughout the last 20 years, the practice has put $100,000 back into their community.
“We are just incredibly blessed," Richi says. "We don’t know what we are doing right, but we think it’s really important to give back, take care of your customers and do everything you’re doing as unto the Lord, and that’s what we do. We are trying to be the best we can every day.” And there, again, is that smile.
Note: All women's apparel is by designer Joseph Ribkoff, and footwear and purses are by Brighton.