Father, daughter partner for alpaca products company

Published 8:04 am Saturday, August 26, 2023

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MANCHESTER — The family that has hosted the Manchester sunflower fields the last few years has started a new business to help support their fall community event.

Jared Dawson said with the retirement of Ed and Jean Schlede of Oak Knoll Alpacas, he and his daughter Grace got in contact with the Schledes and decided to carry forward the couple’s remaining inventory under a new business name — Alpaca Shacka.

Grace is a marketing major at North Central University and was also looking for a way to put some of the business skills she was learning to use, and the family wanted a way to help support some of the expenses for the sunflower fields.

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“It’s a way to help the sunflowers, to give her a project and a way to keep [the Schledes’ legacy] alive,” Jared said.

The family’s alpacas and goats have already been popular attractions for attendees at the sunflower fields, and the Dawsons plan to expand their herd from about a half dozen to probably 10 to 15, Jared said. At their height, the Schledes had 70 alpacas, though on average they had about 30, he said.

Alpacas are sheared once a year for their fleece, and it is then sent off to Peru and turned into various products.

Alpaca fleece historically has been used for royalty because it is softer and lighter than wool but is known for the warmth it can provide. He said alpaca fiber is naturally water resistant, so socks made with it can be worn year-round. In the summer, they help keep the feet from sweating, while in the winter they provide the warmth needed in colder temperatures.

Grace said all of their inventory for the business will be sold online at alpacashacka.com.

The site is up and running, and they will focus first on selling the Schledes’ remaining inventory, including scarves, socks, some clothing and even some plushy toys. Then as they move forward, the products will come more from their own animals.

Grace said it has been a fun project to collaborate on with her dad and she has enjoyed applying the knowledge she has learned in her college classes on topics such as social media management, building a website and others.

So far, they said they have shipped products mostly to places in Canada and Minnesota, and a little store will be opened mostly in the fall and with the sunflower fields.

This year’s sunflower fields are likely to be open in mid-September, though Jared said official dates will be announced on the “Sunflower Fields of Manchester” Facebook page.