By  on May 14, 2007

Psychobaby is growing up.

The hipster Chicago children's boutique turned four years old last week. In 2003, co-owners Marlo Hoffman and Lisa Starbuck decided to open a shop that caters to infants and toddlers after they acquired their own sets of "psychobabies." Regarding the store's name, "It's more of an endearment term; something light that Lisa and I would use to describe our kids to each other, when they were having a meltdown," Hoffman said. "Parents out there can surely relate — we've all had those moments where our kids have gone a little psycho on us."

Hoffman and Starbuck's original vision for their boutique was to create a one-stop shop, where people could find clothing, toys, accessories and books for their children. But they began to find that one of their biggest customers was the childless parent. "A huge percentage of our clientele is the friends and family who shop for babies — the gift business for us has been outrageous," said Hoffman.

Though she declined to discuss figures, the boutique is growing by approximately 30 percent in sales each year, according to Hoffman. A range of brands fills the 2,000-square-foot store: Petit Bateau's navy-and-rose-striped dress with leggings retails for $84, True Religion's signature Boy Joey jeans sell for $143 and Hi Ho Batik's purple princess castle T-shirt and pant set goes for $70. Other brands feature rocker Ts, such as Kaos' Ramones girly T-shirt ($72), and Haute Stuff has its black Ozzy Newborn onesie ($30).

"We like to think of the store as 'trendy through a child's eyes," said Hoffman. "We stay away from ducks and bunnies — and if we have to do them, it's gonna be with a twist."

Not all brands are high-end, either. Sourpuss and Appaman brands keep their apparel between $21 and $38, and their accessories, such as socks and bibs, are less. In addition, the co-owners developed their own line of apparel, also named Psychobaby. The collection, which consists of bibs, hats and daring onesies that read "sir poopsalot" and "Mommy & Daddy + Martini = Me," can be found in the store, as well.Do the owners have expansion plans in mind? "Sure," said Hoffman. "We've been entertaining the idea of opening up stores down the road, but our biggest concentration right now is growing our online presence."

Currently, merchandise on the site represents approximately 70 percent of what's seen on the shelves. The co-owners take special care of each online shopper: Personal notes are sent out with every online purchase. And typically, a gift, such as candy or a toy, will be placed in the package, too.

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