July 25th 2016
From Corel to Chronos and almost everywhere in between, Casaba Outlet has become ubiquitous across the UEE. The concept behind the store is far from new. It sells designer-style fashion at affordable prices, yet Casaba succeeded where many had failed thanks mainly to the business savvy and entrepreneurial drive embodied by the company’s founding partners, siblings Jean and Joel Polanco.
Jean Polanco claims to have been born in a jump point. At least that’s the excuse she gave to justify her restless spirit. Still, her claim can’t be disproven. Jean’s birth certificate states she was born in an unspecified part of space in 2811, as her parents traveled from Ferron to Idris in search of work. For the next five years, Jean’s childhood home was her family’s Freelancer, as her parents crisscrossed the universe as independent cargo haulers.
Joel was born in 2816 while the family was in the Goss System. Their mother, Tierney, insisted on Joel’s birth happening there, as she believed the cosmic properties of the system’s binary star would bless him in life. Joel was described as a shy yet curious child, who constantly questioned why the family was always on the move. So Tierney told him they were searching for a magical city called Casaba: a place of peace and tranquility that was filled with wonders for all.
The family continued to live out of their Freelancer, barely subsisting on odd jobs just long enough to get them to the next system. The extensive traveling excited Jean, who became fascinated with the subtle cultural differences between planets. While the rest of the family visited historical sites or natural wonders, Jean spent her days in dingy alleys, exploring bazaars and garment districts.
One day, Joel joined his sister as she wandered through a New Junction market. A vendor noticed Jean’s bracelet and offered her three times what she paid for it. At first she refused — she had picked up the bracelet a few systems prior in Nyx and loved the way the crystal caught the light — but Joel convinced her to sell it for the sake of the family. This transaction made her realize that subtle cultural differences could also be valuable. A cheap trinket from Delamar was a statement piece in Lo, so Jean started buying the most beautiful, exotic or distinct items she could find on one planet with Joel helping her resell it on the next.
For years, the Polanco family traversed the ’verse, and thanks to the extra income from what Jean bought and sold on their journey, they were no longer living hand to mouth … until their father, Atlee, contracted Lezcano Syndrome, a rare disorder that ravaged his nervous system and had no known cure. Tierney insisted the family return to Goss so the power of the system’s binary stars would help him heal. They moved into a dilapidated shack near Lyre, where Tierney spent her day caring for her husband and searching the planet’s diverse ecosystem for a natural cure.
Knowing no other way to support their family, Jean and Joel, now in their twenties, set out in the family’s ship. They visited both core and frontier systems to acquire a vast and diverse array of items, only to learn their old business model would not generate enough income to support them and their parents. So Joel suggested some changes.
Instead of Jean hand-selecting single items from markets while Joel sold the stock from the back of the ship, the two would deal directly with small- to medium-sized softline manufactures to buy remnant stock in bulk. Rather than just having the one unique item, they would now have dozens available if something proved popular. Aided by Jean’s keen eye in selecting the best outdated stock from each manufacturer, their Freelancer soon became known in various landing zones for selling stylish yet affordable clothes. When lines began to form before they could even open the back hatch, Joel knew they were on to something.
During this period, Jean and Joel frequently returned to Lyre to visit their parents. Though Atlee’s health had improved, he still wasn’t himself. Jean believed Atlee, who had spent his life working, just needed to keep busy, so Joel proposed opening a small store for their parents to manage.
In 2843, the very first Casaba opened its doors in Lyre. Joel called it Casaba after the imaginary city Tierney made up for him as a kid, hoping this would be the magical place his family had always dreamed of finding. It wasn’t long before profits soared and they struggled to keep the store’s shelves stocked. Though Jean was content handling all the shopping and shipping herself, Joel envisioned bigger things for Casaba.
First, Joel hired haulers to expedite the shipping of items to their store. Jean’s vast knowledge of shipping lanes proved vital as she charted very specific routes that cycled through systems and linked up at designated landing zones. At these points, stock from core worlds would be offloaded to ships traveling to the store. These interlocking routes cut shipping costs, and allowed their Lyre location to undercut the prices of similar stores. The optimized supply chain worked so well, within months Casaba expanded to a larger location.
Following this success, Joel began leasing cheap storefronts near the landing zones where their hauler’s routes intersected. This introduced Casaba to a wider audience, and further increased profits. Yet, it also brought new found pressures.
Additional stores meant Jean had less time to personally travel to find unique stock and manufacturers. To make up the difference and to further increase their appeal, Joel began to cut deals with mega-clothing manufacturers helping to keep shelves stocked. Jean always believed the appeal of Casaba was that it highlighted brands that were primarily only known in their home system. But, as Joel often reminded her, for Casaba to become a universal brand, it would have to deal with universally known companies or be run out of town.
For nearly two decades, Casaba continued to expand by adding new locations and brands to their shelves. Eventually larger companies took notice. In 2867, the Jayco Group made a bid to buy Casaba and incorporate it into their conglomerate. The offer was appealing, but would have folded their infrastructure and locations into another brand, effectively killing the Casaba name. After much deliberation, Jean and Joel rejected the offer, but now knew the competition considered them a threat.
Feeling emboldened, Casaba bought the floundering Gasper’s Garments chain store, giving them prime retail space in core systems. Supposedly, Jean opposed the acquisition, as the job of filling the additional shelves fell on her. Pushed by Joel, Jean cut deals with companies she disliked or didn’t trust to consistently deliver quality clothing. The stress drove a wedge between the two and eventually led to her leaving the company.
With little fanfare, in 2875 Jean stepped down from her position to spend her time traveling to the few parts of the universe she had yet to see. Though their professional relationship crumbled, Jean and Joel reportedly remained close, with Jean even continuing to provide helpful advice.
Joel’s careful stewardship of the company and its brand turned Casaba into a store where everyday Citizens and civilian could buy stylish clothes at an affordable price. Eventually, the Jayco Group approached Joel with another offer. This one combined their supply chains while rebranding all of Jayco’s clothing stores under the Casaba banner after extensive market research proved it to be the better brand.
Following lengthy negotiations, Joel finally agreed to the terms after Jayco agreed to allow him to stay on. In 2883, the store officially rebranded itself as Casaba Outlet. The merger put a store in nearly every UEE system, a staggering achievement for a company that started out of a small storefront on Lyre. With its success, Joel would eventually rise to the position of CEO once again.
Today, Casaba Outlet remains nothing short of an inspiring success story taught in business schools around the UEE. It provides proof that it only takes a keen eye, a Freelancer and a bit of business savvy to build an incredible empire. While it might not be the city Tierney created in her stories, Casaba ended up becoming something even more magical for the Polanco family.