CASPER, Wyo. – A lot has changed in the Eastridge Mall during the nearly four-decades since it first opened, but there was always one constant:
The Shade Tree.
Until this month, the 700-square-foot kiosk offering designer sunglasses and accessories was the last remaining original local tenant at the mall, according to Amanda Jones.
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Jones, who bought the Shade Tree 15-years ago, made the difficult decision to relocate this year after changing retail realities became all too clear.
“It just continued to go downhill, it’s been really sad to watch it,” said Jones about the mall’s fading vibrancy. A few months ago, describing the mall as a “ghost town,” she floated the idea of relocating to her customers on social media. That post got the attention of Atrium Plaza owner Pete Maxwell, who then offered her a prime 3,000-square-foot space right on the corner of Second Street and Wolcott.
With that much space, Jones decided to reinvent the store as a large boutique, selling not only designer sunglasses but everything from home decor to fashion to accessories. Several Wyoming-owned accessories brands for men and women are also represented, such as 307, Wyo Dirt and Mountain Trash.
With the new store came a new name – The Shade Tree Boutique – as well as a co-owner, Amber Bodily, who brings her own fashion sense into the mix.
“I was super excited that she asked me,” said Bodily. “We have two different styles so together we work better. She’s more sporty and I like to accessorize.”
“Between the two of us we pretty much know everybody in Casper,” adds Jones.
Bodily says what sets a downtown, locally-owned boutique apart is personalized customer service, and a specific shopping experience.
“We want you to come in here and build relationships, and help you find something before you leave this store,” she said. “Maybe putting something on that you’d never try before and end up loving it.”
The transformation of the big space has been a labor of love, with a lot of paint and additional construction to make the vision complete. The landlords are in the process of installing a new door directly off second street, allowing the Shade Tree Boutique to keep hours independent of the Atrium Plaza.
The back part of the space will be used for fashion shows and other events, and will be available to rent for small events such as baby showers.
The new Shade Tree opened last week, but the owners are planning a big grand opening bash next month, with a private party on Friday, Oct. 9, and a grand opening for the public on Saturday, Oct. 10.
“It’ll be unique compared to other grand openings, because we’re pulling in other vendors, like a tattoo artist, makeup artists, and we’re doing a fashion show too,” said Jones.
The two are excited to become part of the unique downtown retail experience.
“Our downtown has done so much, with building the plaza and ice skating rink, and all the cool local bars, I feel like we can grow,” said Jones.
“I think this is the heart of Wyoming,” said Bodily.
The Shade Tree Boutique is located at 201 E. Second Street, in the Atrium Plaza. More information is available on their Facebook page.
The Eastridge Mall’s corporate owners, Brookfield Properties, did not respond to a request for comment on this article.