If you have kids or shop for kids, it is likely you have had the pleasure of finding treasures at Wallingford’s own Kids on 45th, a bustling consignment store which sells new and used clothes, toys and baby gear. Early on with our son, we would be in there every other week finding that cool new shaker toy or a baby food mill to try or taking home seemingly untouched pants from…France? And we also enjoy bringing things back to receive in-store credit and for other families to enjoy (that musical walker that he played with for weeks on end!).
In 2017, Kids on 45th celebrates 28 years of serving local families, seven days per week! One woman founded this neighborhood gem and leads the team behind the magic – Susan Arefi. I recently got to enjoy more than a passing conversation with Susan over coffee while she shared her story and her dream for the future.
A little history…
It all began when Susan was a young mom of two, who had recently moved back from Iran where her husband is from. “There was a little store in this same location then called ‘Chick-a-biddy’ that sold new and consignment. At the time, I sewed all my daughter’s clothes, reversible dresses and things and Chick-a-biddy would sell them. The shop was struggling and a little run-down. I said to the owner once, ‘if you ever want to sell, let me know’”
Susan got the call, but didn’t have the money to buy the place. “She basically turned everything over to me”. Fortunately, Susan had worked at the Boston Street Baby Store and had experience in consignment. “We wrote all of the receipts by hand” she said, “It was a lot of work”. The husband of one of her employees built them a database and her brother wrote a custom program in Microsoft Access, which is still used today to track consignment accounts. “It works perfectly for what we need it to do”
As the business began to grow, Susan brought in new merchandise and began her seasonal (and very creative!) window displays. “One thing about this business is that you always have to be thinking a season ahead”
Susan also added more employees. “As a young mom, running this business offered me a lot of flexibility to be with my family when I needed to.” The extra help enabled Susan to be off during evenings and weekends, but still have the store open seven days per week. Susan’s commitment and diligence have attracted dedicated, hard-working employees. A few of the 5 part-time staffers have been at Kids on 45th for more than 15 years and several have come back at times when they needed a job.
Beyond care for her employees, Susan’s passion for her customers is evident. “Maybe they need mom at home and they are living off a single income. We want to help make it doable for families.” And this philosophy keeps customers coming back over and over to scan the “dollar rack” or hunt through the shoe bins. Several of Susan’s customers are using their own mothers’ consignment numbers. “The human element is really important. There’s emotion around your children’s things.”
In the midst of this thriving business, Susan is wisely thinking ahead to the next step for herself and for the store. “I know at some point – and probably sooner rather than later – I’m going to be ready to do something else. And I’d like to see this live on or transform into something new and profitable for another family.”
What does this look like? Susan is full of ideas and very open to new directions. Maybe Kids on 45th becomes a co-op between 3 or 4 families? Perhaps Susan stays on in advisory role? Maybe there are new online sales opportunities for high value items? Technology upgrades to make consigning easier? While the landlord and location have been a great part of the business, moving the location could open new avenues?
Whatever may be the next life for Kids on 45th, it will certainly take the same level of commitment, creativity and hard work. “If you want the business to run well, you have to be present and get your hands dirty. And, you have to listen to the customers,” says Susan.
So Wallyhood (and other neighbors!), consider this your invitation to dream big for Kids on 45th! If you have a serious inquiry, Susan would love to hear from you. The best way to reach her is at [email protected] or at the store 206-633-5437.