As the number of new families continues to rise, the DUMBO area gets serious about kids.
Call them DUMBO's "New Kids on the Block."
The DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood, an artsy and fashionable Brooklyn enclave, is trying hard to cater to its youngest residents. More families have been opting for the area in the shadow of the Manhattan skyline instead of places like TriBeCa, SoHo and the Upper East Side. DUMBO, which is on the East River, offers more space and it has that most valuable commodity — positive buzz.
"It was definitely word of mouth for us," said new mother Halley Bysshe, four-year-plus resident of the Sweeney Building, one of the converted warehouse buildings that are part of DUMBO's appeal. "People in New York are looking for alternatives, they don't want to move to the suburbs and the money just went so much further here."
She said the proximity to Manhattan is one of the neighborhood's biggest attractions. "It's a nice community along the water, and honestly, it's just a very cool vibe."
New mothers can certainly do some retail damage in DUMBO. Fashionable specialty stores, such as Bluberri, Zoe and Loopy Mango have moved in. Other new merchants include shops such as Jacques Torres Chocolate, ABC Carpet & Home and West Elm. Restaurants such as the renowned River Café, Grimaldi's Pizza and Bubby's Ristorante also cater to DUMBO residents.
And, of course, children's stores are sprouting to keep up with the growing number of young families making their way into the neighborhood. About 4,000 people live in the area, according to the Dumbo Improvement District.
"We're finding that a lot of residents are well-educated, young professionals — it's definitely a very family-focused community," said Jane Kojima, communications and development manager for the organization. "As far as the business climate goes, we're seeing primarily niche market businesses, including specialty women's and children's boutiques, and you'll find that many of the other retailers and restaurants easily accommodate children and strollers."
Neighborhood residents, Bysshe added, "make a point to support local businesses. It gives everyone a feel of solidarity to the community — we're all vested here."Below, a look at three local retailers with a focus on the children's market.
Opened: January 2007
Location: 53 Pearl Street, between Plymouth and Water Streets
At almost 6,000 square feet (which includes the warehouse, office and store), Modern Tots is the most recent entrant in DUMBO.
"We originally began as an online retailer [with moderntots.com] in 2005, and we weren't looking to open a store at the time," said Sarah Rubenstein, president.
Once the company began expanding, Rubenstein realized the need for a brick-and-mortar store. "We looked everywhere. What's great about this space — this converted warehouse idea, the open floor plan — it's what worked for our business,'' she said. "It seemed a perfect fit."
On weekdays, the store attracts local residents and professionals who work in the area. "But on the weekends, that amount expands to include the entire Tristate area, and general visitors to the neighborhood," Rubenstein said.
Furniture is the core of the business, and the store's modern, sleek and clean theme is visible throughout all collections and products.
"The community wants artistic, yet functional," Rubenstein said.
The store has actual room prototypes set up for the furniture brands.
"We feel it's incredibly helpful for people to envision how to put a room together for their children," Rubenstein said.
In addition to the furniture, apparel and accessories brands are plentiful as well — and all items maintain the modern and sophisticated concept.
Apparel, which features a size range of 0-6 years, retails for $9 to $96; toys, $3 to $750, and furniture, $49 to $6,000.
Rubenstein did not disclose sales volume, but said, "We are on track to gross 100 percent over last year — it's been a year of incredible growth."
The store also holds a number of classes for children. "Parents really need a local resource for their kids," Rubenstein said. The store features a Language Immersion Playgroup in conjunction with the International School of Brooklyn and an Artists Club class on Tuesdays and Fridays. Kids' Yoga, which has been on hiatus, will return this winter. POMME
Owned by two former fashion journalists who are longtime friends and mothers, Pomme is a store that celebrates European style.
When the pair decided to open their own store dedicated to children, Stéphanie Chayet, who is French, and her partner, Samantha Adam Benenati, who is Belgian, "loved the feel of the industrial space," Chayet explained, referring to their interest in Pomme's current location.
The initial intent was to focus on children's lines that are hard to find in the U.S. "We were journalists, always looking for different angles, different approaches to an idea. We knew New York didn't need another typical kids' store," Chayet said. "We decided on an assortment of fresh products not typically sold here."
She pointed out that the neighborhood consumers were receptive. Though Chayet did not reveal sales, she said, "New parents need a frame of reference, they have no understanding or context of products overseas. That was our goal — to bring them to these new families. We stuck with this premise, and it is really paying off."
Apparel ranges from $25 to $150, with the bulk priced between $50 and $100. Toys are $5 to $80, and furniture retails from $90 to $1,000. Pomme is the first store to bring the Petit Pan apparel collection to the U.S. Brands like ZEF, Bonbon and Luco feature simple, classic shapes and silhouettes and range in size from 0-6. "All of the apparel we sell here features simple basics, but they are well-made,'' Chayet said.
The store, which also has an online presence at pommenyc.com, carries a handful of American lines, including, Makie, based in New York, San Francisco's Dagmar Daley and Flora and Henri, of Seattle.
The size of the store, 1,800 square feet, allowed the co-owners to bring in classes and local projects for the community. For example, there's a sushi class for kids from ages two to five, where kids learn to make and eat sushi. Other features include a huge changing table area accessible to moms and dads. Twice a week, haircuts for infants and children are provided by Carole Kimberg — from $25 to $35. HALF PINT
Opened: September 2005
Location: 55 Washington Street, at Water Street
Brands: Pura Vida, Petit Bateau, Small Paul, Tea Collection, Wonderboy, Half Pint, Fleurville, Skip Hop, Bugaboo, Phil & Ted, Noodle & Boo, Robeez
The most apparel-heavy of the three stores, Half Pint carries a wide variety of clothing, furniture and toys for kids and considers itself to be a "one-stop shopping experience for the family."
Starting in 2000, the shop was occupied by Babybazaar. In April 2005, Half Pint owner Randi Song and her husband, Lars Schlichting, bought the assets of Babybazaar and its online presence. The following September they celebrated Half Pint's opening. Though the company did not disclose revenues, Song said, "The store has witnessed a 30 percent increase in sales year-over-year."
By spring, Half Pint plans to integrate more eco-friendly products across all categories in its 1,200-square-foot space. "Our goal from the beginning was to provide an eco-friendly destination specializing in children's products, but it wasn't until recently that we felt that there were enough exciting products to showcase and make a strong statement," Song said.
An example is the Pure Baby apparel brand, a children's collection made of pure organic cotton. Sizes range from infants to age eight for kids, and prices are $20 to $100.
Song and Schlichting wanted to create a store that provided DUMBO families the necessities they need, essentially, right around the corner.
"Our store is heavily involved with the DUMBO community," said Half Pint manager Theresa Corsentino. "Anytime a local business hosts an event, we try and sponsor, or we send gifts — we love to be a part of local events."
Half Pint's Web site will launch in 2008 as halfpintcitizens.com and will feature and sell all merchandise that is available in the store.
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