By  on August 23, 2007

ARLINGTON, Mass. — When she opened Wild Child in 2005, Dana Klein lacked retail experience but had a clear philosophy about childhood.

She envisioned a boutique that balanced practical advice about strollers and gear with a broad array of fun, fashionable clothes.

"I wanted to focus on the joy of childhood. There is so much goodness to being a little kid — running around in soft, bright things," she said. "There is the school of kids dressing like little grown-ups, and I guess there's a place for miniature linen pants, but that's never been my whole aesthetic."

All she stocks — from globally inspired girls' line Tea to graphic boys T-shirts from Brooklyn-based Appaman — are play clothes. No stiff, special occasion dresses or Little Lord Fauntleroy getups here. She won't carry fashion camouflage (not even as trim on a diaper bag), believing the military print isn't appropriate for children. But peace signs sell well each season. For fall, she fell in love with a soft, pink dress with cocoa peace signs from Flowers by Zoe.

Wild Child's setup is atypical. Located in this town about 10 miles outside Boston, the store shares a long, narrow 7,000-square-foot space with two other retailers: Helena's, which carries women's wear and maternity clothing, and Isis Maternity, which runs activity classes and sells gear for newborns.

There are no walls between the stores, so tact and cooperation are necessary to make sure purchases get rung up at the correct place. But the shared arrangement allowed Klein to get a toe into a competitive market.

Since then, Wild Child and the other businesses have become a destination for affluent moms from Arlington, Belmont, Cambridge and Boston.

"We do pretty well with it," she said. "There is some negotiation, but I think each business benefits from the others. On a rainy Tuesday morning, when I'd be twiddling my thumbs, it's great to have moms coming in for classes at Isis. And I know I bring them traffic on the weekends."

Wild Child's portion of the space is about 2,200 square feet and is on track to generate sales of close to $1 million this year. About 40 percent of her revenues come from apparel, the rest from furniture and gear. She's shifting furniture sales online to free up additional space for fashion. Klein buys 30 to 40 different apparel lines each season, for boys and girls from newborn to age seven.There are affordable items such as Small Paul by Paul Frank T-shirts at $25, along with the occasional "wow" item, such as a $115 Tickittyboo skirt that sold in under a week.

Klein makes sure there's a range of apparel and small toys for a mom looking to spend less than $20 on a gift. Splendid, Tea, Patagonia, Petite Bateau and Appaman are top performers. This fall, she has strong hopes for girls' lines Lola Et Moi and Joe's Jeans, and Ben Sherman boys, all of which are new to the store for fall.

Next up is an e-commerce Web site, launching before the end of the month, which she believes will be the best channel for her furniture business. Also in the works: a second location. She'd prefer a street spot in a town center, but hasn't found the right option yet.

As for the future — now that she finds herself with the luxury of hiring help — Klein's delegating responsibilities in order to spend more time scouring the marketplace for compelling product. She wants, for instance, to find a stylish, eco-friendly furniture line and to expand Wild Child's offerings to children up to age 10 by spring.

"As a [former IBM] consultant, I can do a little of everything and I've had to. Now it's about sitting down and figuring out how to focus on the parts I love," she said.

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